In a new filing to the FCC, Verizon (NYSE: VZ), T-Mobile US (NYSE:TMUS), Qualcomm (NASDAQ:QCOM), Ericsson (NASDAQ: ERIC) and Alcatel-Lucent (NYSE: ALU) blasted a proposal by the Wi-Fi Alliance to certify LTE Unlicensed technologies, arguing the Wi-Fi Alliance is seeking to become a "gatekeeper" for technology in unlicensed spectrum. The companies said the Wi-Fi Alliance's proposal would "jeopardize the [FCC's] entire framework that has made unlicensed spectrum so successful as an open platform for permissionless innovation."
Not surprisingly, when questioned about the new filing, the Wi-Fi Alliance said its certification proposal is geared toward protecting existing Wi-Fi users in unlicensed spectrum: "The risk to users who depend on Wi-Fi every day for their connectivity needs is too great," Edgar Figueroa, president and CEO of the Wi-Fi Alliance, said in a statement to FierceWirelessTech.
The dustup started earlier this month, when the Wi-Fi Alliance announced its Co-Existence Evaluation Program. The group said it would develop a "comprehensive coexistence test plan" that would assess the level of fair sharing between LTE-U and Wi-Fi technologies. The group also said it would test LTE U products from the likes of Qualcomm, Ericsson and others "to determine if they pass the Wi-Fi Alliance co-existence tests across all allowable configurations," and would provide the results of those tests to the FCC. Finally, the Wi-Fi Alliance said it would hold "workshops to advance dialogue and understanding about fair spectrum sharing, the potential effects of LTE-U, and the type of activities in which Wi-Fi Alliance can engage to promote fair sharing between LTE-U, Wi-Fi and other unlicensed technologies." The group said it would host its initial workshop in Northern California in early November.
In their new filing, Verizon, T-Mobile, Qualcomm, Ericsson and Alcatel-Lucent rejected the Wi-Fi Alliance's proposal. The companies said they have already conducted briefings and workshops with the Wi-Fi Alliance and members of its Coexistence Technical Group starting in March and culminating in two day-long events in May. The companies also noted that Qualcomm invited the Wi-Fi Alliance to use its labs to conduct tests -- "these offers were not accepted," the companies said.
"Instead, the Wi-Fi Alliance -- three months later -- filed its August 14 letter announcing its own initial workshop on coexistence in early November and plans for its own coexistence evaluation program," the companies said in their FCC filing. "Although we belong to the Wi-Fi Alliance, they did not approach us or seek our input on this proposal; rather, we learned about its announcement when the Alliance filed its letter."
The companies said the FCC should ensure that LTE U equipment complies with the FCC's rules for unlicensed wireless devices.
"Wi-Fi Alliance stands by the recommendations to FCC in our recent LTE-U ex parte filing," Figueroa told FierceWirelessTech in a written statement (links included). "The current LTE-U specification does not require products to include adequate fair sharing etiquette protocols. The extent to which LTE-U shares spectrum with other technologies can vary widely from one vendor to the next, as was discussed at an LTE-U Forum workshop in May. Furthermore, there is already a growing amount of research, such as that published by Google and CableLabs (here and here) indicating that Wi-Fi networks will be negatively impacted by the current version of LTE-U technology."
Verizon and T-Mobile have both said they intend to launch commercial LTE services into unlicensed spectrum starting next year. The carriers hope to offer customers faster and more reliable data connections by expanding communications from their own licensed spectrum and into unlicensed spectrum. However, a range of Wi-Fi proponents have raised concerns about the technology, arguing it could affect existing technologies for unlicensed spectrum like Wi-Fi.
For their part, LTE U supporters like Verizon and T-Mobile have argued LTE Unlicensed won't impact Wi-Fi users.
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