Mobile Future pushes light regulatory touch in LTE-U proceeding

As the Wi-Fi Alliance prepares to convene this week for its second workshop on LTE-U, Mobile Future is pushing for the FCC to continue using a light-touch regulatory policy when it comes to unlicensed spectrum.

The group, whose members include AT&T (NYSE: T), Verizon Communications (NYSE: VZ) and Qualcomm (NASDAQ:QCOM), submitted a report titled "The Importance of Permissionless Innovation in Unlicensed Bands," intended to offer a snapshot of 75 years of light-touch unlicensed spectrum policy that helped pave the way for a successful U.S. wireless industry.

While Mobile Future's membership appears to be an eclectic mix of companies, its advisers include former FCC staff, including Brian Fontes, current CEO of the National Emergency Number Association and former VP of federal regulations for Cingular Wireless, as well as former senior advisor to Commissioner James Quello; and Brian Tramont, former chief of staff to then-Chairman Michael Powell. The group describes itself as an association of "cutting-edge technology and communications companies and a diverse group of non-profit organizations," working to support an environment that encourages investment in wireless.

"The data illustrates that the key to this success story is the FCC consistently avoiding any requirement that devices operating in unlicensed spectrum adhere to specifications developed by any particular standards setting organization, employ any particular co-existence protocol, or pass any sort of litmus test for compatibility with other unlicensed technologies," the group states in its filing with the FCC.

Mobile Future's members have a vested interest in having industry work together to agree on fair usage principles in unlicensed spectrum rather than having the FCC step in with mandates. While standards related to LAA are being hammered out in organizations like 3GPP, LTE-U started in the LTE-U Forum, made up of a handful of companies, including Verizon. That, in part, triggered concerns among Wi-Fi and cable industry advocates who have questioned LTE's ability to play fair in unlicensed spectrum. The FCC started a proceeding last year seeking information on trends surrounding LAA and LTE-U.

Late last month, Julius Knapp, chief of the FCC's Office of Engineering and Technology, announced that his office had granted a special temporary authority (STA) to Qualcomm to conduct small-scale performance evaluation tests of LTE-U equipment at two Verizon sites in Oklahoma City, Okla., and Raleigh, N.C.

The Wi-Fi Alliance has been working with advocates of LTE-U to develop a test plan that will evaluate the co-existence of LTE-U with Wi-Fi and other devices operating in the unlicensed spectrum. The next LTE-U coexistence test workshop takes place this Wednesday, Feb. 10, in San Jose, Calif. During the workshop, attendees will discuss the Wi-Fi Alliance's draft LTE-U coexistence test plan and figure out what work still needs to be done.

The Wi-Fi Alliance has said that the goal of the testing regime, once complete, will be to determine whether there is fair sharing between Wi-Fi and LTE users in the same spectrum. Fair sharing has been described as whether one LTE user entering unlicensed spectrum would have no worse impact on an existing Wi-Fi user in that spectrum than would the addition of another Wi-Fi user.

Meanwhile, work to develop the standard around LAA continues, and even though progress is being made, representatives of Qualcomm told FierceWirelessTech last week that they still believe LTE-U will have a significant time-to-market advantage over LAA.

For more:
- see this FCC filing

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