AT&T uses not-so-way-back machine to explain latest angst over LTE-U brouhaha

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AT&T said it has no interest in undermining the vibrant Wi-Fi ecosystem that exists today, but it’s pretty clear that it’s also not so keen on entertaining some of the demands it said the Wi-Fi Alliance has been making.

“The latest chapter of the Wi-Fi vs. LTE-U saga unfolded this month as the Wi-Fi Alliance (WFA) announced that, after many months, it was finally closing in on an approved LTE-U coexistence test plan but surprised everyone by suggesting that the test plan should also include LTE-LAA,” wrote AT&T’s Vice President of Federal Regulatory Joan Marsh in a blog post. “To understand why this is so aggravating, we need to take a little trip in the not-so-way-back machine.”

When the LTE-U brouhaha erupted a year ago, Wi-Fi proponents argued that LTE-U had not been subject to the usual standards process and that it did not contain a “listen before talk” protocol. Marsh pointed out that LTE-LAA does, however, contain a “listen before talk” etiquette.

LTE-LAA is the version of the technology that has been making its way through the 3GPP standards process, whereas LTE-U has been developed largely by members of the LTE-U Forum. Verizon formed the Forum in 2014 in cooperation with Alcatel-Lucent, Ericsson, Qualcomm Technologies and Samsung.

Marsh noted that while some have argued that the unlicensed community always worked cooperatively together, there actually are many unlicensed devices that are not particularly cooperative with Wi-Fi. One report estimated that 76 percent of the interference into home Wi-Fi systems comes from baby monitors, microwaves and cordless phones, and no one manufacturing those devices had to seek permission from the Wi-Fi Alliance to proceed or submit to WFA co-existence testing, Marsh said. She also noted that LTE-U relies on LTE Releases standardized in 3GPP.

“Despite having fully met the two complaints that the Wi-Fi crowd insisted were at the core of their LTE-U concerns, we now learn that they apparently believe that LTE-LAA must likewise be subject to a WFA co-existence test plan,” she said.

“Over the years Part 15 has always stood for the principle of permission-less innovation. Any device consistent with the Part 15 rules was promptly authorized. It was a clear regulatory paradigm that led to an explosion of unlicensed devices.” she added. “With LTE-U, that paradigm was subject to a tectonic shift toward a “mother-may-I” standard, with the role of mother being played by an ever-changing number of actors.”

Responding to an inquiry from FierceWirelessTech, Kevin Robinson, VP of Marketing at the Wi-Fi Alliance, said that the Wi-Fi Alliance has consistently sought an industry-led solution for Wi-Fi and LTE-U coexistence testing that avoids regulation and maintains the connectivity experience for Wi-Fi users.

“Since the coexistence work began, Wi-Fi Alliance and industry stakeholders have considered LAA coexistence with Wi-Fi part of the broader effort to ensure fair sharing in unlicensed spectrum, however, the Wi-Fi Alliance Coexistence Test Plan does not currently include testing mechanisms for LAA,” he said in a statement. “3GPP is progressing on coexistence specifications for LAA, and Wi-Fi Alliance plans to contribute our test plan to the development efforts in that forum. 3GPP has indicated that they intend to leverage our work to ensure LAA devices will share unlicensed spectrum fairly with Wi-Fi.”

For more:
- see this AT&T blog post

Related articles:
Microsoft, HPE, Broadcom voice support for Wi-Fi Alliance’s LTE-U coexistence test plan
Qualcomm finds Wi-Fi doesn’t share spectrum so well either
Verizon: Wi-Fi Alliance’s LTE-U test plan ‘fundamentally unfair and biased’