SoftBank, others join MulteFire Alliance

The MulteFire Alliance is getting even more traction with the addition of Japan's SoftBank Corp. as a new member.

The alliance is all about advancing LTE-based technology operating solely in unlicensed spectrum. Besides SoftBank, Sercomm and Rohde & Schwarz also recently joined the alliance. SoftBank operates as a mobile operator in Japan using TD-LTE/LTE; it also deploys Wi-Fi hotspots throughout the nation. Masayoshi Son's SoftBank bought majority ownership of Sprint (NYSE: S) in 2013.

Sercomm is a manufacturer of broadband and wireless networking equipment, leading in small cells, Wi-Fi IAD, FTTx products, cable DOCSIS 3.0 equipment and smart home solutions. Rohde & Schwarz is a test and measurement company.

The MuLTEfire brand was introduced by Qualcomm (NASDAQ:QCOM) last year but as similar efforts were ongoing at Nokia (NYSE:NOK), the two combined their efforts and formed a support group in the form of the MulteFire Alliance. Ericsson (NASDAQ: ERIC) and Intel also are listed as sponsor members, with Athonet, Bai Cells, Boingo, Casa Systems, Ruckus Wireless, Sercom, Softbank, SpiderCloud Wireless listed as full members and Rohde & Schwarz as test lab participant.

"The addition of tier-one mobile operator SoftBank, leading telecom broadband solution provider Sercomm, and test and measurement solution provider Rohde & Schwarz underscores the value that MulteFire technology delivers across the ecosystem," said Stephan Litjens, MulteFire Alliance board chair and head of Innovation Steering at Nokia, in a release. "The combined experience, dedication to seamless connectivity, and international reach of the new and existing members allows the Alliance to ensure MulteFire technology will not only coexist with other technologies in the global communications market, but also provide a quality and reliable service in all applications. We invite all companies with a stake in wireless connectivity to join the Alliance."

While LTE-U and LAA are geared for operators that have an "anchor" in licensed spectrum, MulteFire technology expands the LTE ecosystem by providing a solution strictly for unlicensed spectrum, initially targeting 5 GHz bands. ISPs, cable operators and enterprises from all verticals, as well as building and venue owners, can get in on the LTE action. The alliance says that for mobile operators, MulteFire opens new opportunities where licensed spectrum is scarce or unavailable and enables neutral host solutions when a multi-operator system is required.

As for LTE-U, which Verizon (NYSE: VZ) has expressed an interest in deploying, it's been the subject of controversy as the Wi-Fi community wants to make sure it plays nice before gear is introduced into unlicensed spectrum. The Wi-Fi Alliance has said it is committed to maintaining a collaborative process as it works to develop a test plan that will ensure fair coexistence among LTE and Wi-Fi devices. The Wi-Fi Alliance's goal is to deliver a coexistence test plan by summer 2016. (The official first day of summer is June 20.) 

In a March 25 filing with the FCC, Ericsson said that although the Wi-Fi Alliance final test plan was to have been established in January 2016, and then April, it will not be completed until mid-August at the earliest.

For more:
- see this release

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