Verizon, Samsung to test enterprise LTE-U femtocells

While Samsung has rolled out hundreds of thousands of 3G femtocells for Verizon Wireless (NYSE: VZ), it's still in the early stages when it comes to LTE femtocells in unlicensed spectrum, or the controversial LTE-U. However, the electronics giant announced it will be engaging in a trial with Verizon using Samsung's LTE-U enterprise femtocells.

The trial is expected to conclude at the end of this year, with LTE-U enabled small cells to be commercially available in 2016. That expectation is presuming the LTE-U and Wi-Fi communities iron out their differences and agree on fair-sharing mechanisms in the unlicensed spectrum bands by that time.

Samsung says its new enterprise femtocell features technology to ensure coexistence between LTE-U and other services, like Wi-Fi, on unlicensed spectrum. Its solution also supports 2x2 multi-input multi-output (MIMO) on both licensed and unlicensed spectrum bands.

A Verizon spokeswoman said the company isn't disclosing the markets in which it is testing the Samsung or other gear at this time. The trial with Samsung is not surprising given that Verizon has said it wants to roll out LTE-U enabled gear in 2016. Verizon is Samsung's biggest U.S. customer for 3G femtocells.

"We are eager to trial Samsung's new solution, and expect that it and other solutions from the LTE-U Forum will continue to drive our leadership position in offering the best wireless network and solutions to our customers," said Adam Koeppe, vice president of network planning for Verizon, in a press release.

"Samsung is proud of the work we have accomplished with Verizon in the LTE-U Forum and we are excited to deliver the network solution and devices to continue to power their networks," Mark Louison, Networks Division senior vice president and U.S. general manager for Samsung Electronics America, said in the release. "This solution illustrates our continued focus on delivering the highest quality LTE experience to our closest partners while using unlicensed spectrum."

Rick Svensson, vice president of wireless networks sales, product and marketing at Samsung, addressed the topic during a Samsung briefing with reporters and analysts on the sidelines of the CTIA Super Mobility 2015 trade show. "There are things we're doing with this technology, which will prove out in the trials, to make sure that Wi-Fi and other users of that spectrum can coexist," he said.

Verizon formed the LTE-U Forum last year with members that now include Alcatel-Lucent (NYSE: ALU), Ericsson (NASDAQ: ERIC), LG Electronics, Samsung Electronics and Qualcomm (NASDAQ:QCOM). They came up with a version of LTE that they say will not negatively impact Wi-Fi users, but so far, the collective Wi-Fi community is not convinced.

In response to Office of Engineering and Technology chief Julius Knapp's Aug. 5 letter seeking more technical information, the LTE-U Forum submitted its response on Sept. 9, reiterating that all the LTE-U Forum member companies are strong supporters of Wi-Fi. "Millions of our consumers rely upon Wi-Fi every day," they said. "We have deep, continuing business interests in Wi-Fi, and we have every incentive to ensure that these technologies operate alongside each other well. We would never have deployed or pursued development of LTE-U if it would harm our customers' use and enjoyment of Wi-Fi."

The letter was submitted by LTE-U Forum member companies, as well as T-Mobile US (NYSE:TMUS). In it, they stressed that LTE-U has a spectrum-sensing capability to identify open frequencies, and if one is open, LTE-U will transmit only on that channel. "This spectrum sensing performed by LTE-U small cells is similar to the channel sensing done today by some Wi-Fi equipment. (Testing has shown that some Wi-Fi equipment does not perform channel sensing accurately, and that there is a wide variation in the ability of Wi-Fi nodes to share spectrum fairly with other Wi-Fi nodes and equipment using other technologies)," the letter stated.

It also said LTE-U will use the "least crowded" channel using an adaptive duty cycle that allows it to take turns with other users without degrading their performance. Carrier-Sensing Adaptive Transmission (CSAT) is a technique used to dynamically determine the amount of time that an LTE-U small cell will transmit and listen so the unlicensed spectrum is used fairly.

But the LTE-U Forum's response isn't enough to satisfy the National Cable & Telecommunications Association (NCTA), which pointed to FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler's stance that a broad-based consensus must be reached between licensed and unlicensed stakeholders before LTE-U gets anywhere near hitting the market. "Regrettably, nothing in the LTE-U Forum's response indicates a willingness to work with the IEEE and other members of the unlicensed community toward a collaborative approach for broadly acceptable standards," NCTA said in a Sept. 10 statement. "As Chairman Wheeler made clear, the potential impact on tens of millions of existing consumer Wi-Fi devices cannot be ignored and a 'trust us' approach to standard setting that merely repeats past arguments is no substitute for a truly inclusive multi-stakeholder solution."

For more:
- see this release
- see this FCC filing

Related articles:
AT&T to trial LTE-U by early 2016
Signals Research finds impact of LTE-U on real-time apps running over Wi-Fi is 'relatively modest'
LTE, Wi-Fi delegates collaborate, not clash, during coexistence workshop in Beijing
With 4 standards cooking for LTE Unlicensed, FCC tech chief asks for more details on Verizon's CSAT

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