Qualcomm introduces MuLTEfire for unlicensed spectrum

Qualcomm (NASDAQ:QCOM) relatively quietly introduced a standalone version of LTE Unlicensed (LTE-U) that it is developing, called MuLTEfire, which does not rely on any licensed spectrum.

Unlike LTE-Unlicensed (LTE-U) and Licensed Assisted Access (LAA), MuLTEfire does not require an "anchor" in licensed spectrum, according to a blog post by Matt Branda, staff manager of technical marketing at Qualcomm Technologies.

MuLTEfire is a new, LTE-based technology that solely operates in unlicensed spectrum. It broadens the LTE ecosystem to entities that may not own licensed spectrum, such as broadband Internet service providers and enterprise/venue owners like stadiums. Mobile network operators--primary licensed spectrum holders--also can benefit by it via new deployment opportunities for offloading and augmenting their mobile networks.

"The ultimate goal of MuLTEfire is to ensure the best possible user experience for wireless access to the Internet or when making video/voice calls, especially in hyper-dense environments," Branda said.

MuLTEfire will use the signals and channelization of the LTE radio link while also leveraging evolving LTE technologies for self-organizing small cells suited for hyper-dense deployments. "MuLTEfire will deliver these LTE-like performance benefits to more deployment scenarios with Wi-Fi-like simplicity--a leaner, self-contained network architecture that is suitable for neutral deployments where any deployment can service any device," Branda said.

The blog adds that fair sharing with other technologies in unlicensed spectrum, such as Wi-Fi, is at the core of MuLTEfire's requirements. Qualcomm Research, a division of Qualcomm Technologies, extensively studied and tested the coexistence on Qualcomm's over-the-air system to ensure LTE-U/LAA will be a good neighbor to Wi-Fi. "These coexistence features ensure that Wi-Fi performance is not adversely impacted. To the contrary, in many cases, Wi-Fi performance will actually be improved by LTE-U/LAA," the blog said. "MuLTEfire will implement similar coexistence features and we envision similar results."

MuLTEfire will not require any licensed spectrum, but it will still offer performance that exceeds today's unlicensed technologies, the company said. The actual release of MuLTEfire equipment for deployment will depend on market demand and customer request, and the company so far isn't talking about any specific customers for it.

Qualcomm also mentioned MuLTEfire as part of its filing in the FCC's proceeding that seeks comment on LTE-U and LAA. The company repeated its stance that assertions that LTE-U will "drown out Wi-Fi and other unlicensed spectrum users are completely false." The industry at large has every incentive to ensure that devices that use Wi-Fi do not suffer interference and continue to perform well. It also said that there have been extensive communications between LTE-U Forum members and the Wi-Fi Alliance on LTE-U and between 3GPP and IEEE 802 on LAA.

The LTE-U Forum members held a full-day workshop on May 28 in San Diego that was attended by 96 people from 29 different companies and organizations. The workshop included detailed technical presentations covering coexistence mechanisms and demonstrations in the lab and field.

For more:
- see this Qualcomm blog
- see this Qualcomm FCC filing
- see this Disruptive Analysis blog

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