Verizon to test pre-commercial LTE-U small cells in unlicensed 5 GHz band

Verizon filed an application with the FCC to conduct tests of small cells running both 802.11 Wi-Fi technologies as well as LTE in the unlicensed 5 GHz band.

Verizon noted the effort is part of the carrier’s ongoing efforts to roll out LTE-U technology. The technology promises to allow Verizon to expand its services into unlicensed spectrum bands, thereby giving customers faster speeds and more network capacity than Verizon can provide solely with its licensed spectrum holdings.

“The purpose of the proposed testing is to evaluate the technical performance of pre-commercial LTE-U equipment, operating in downlink-only mode in the UNII-1 and UNII-3 portions of the 5 GHz band, in a highly controlled field environment in order to assist in the ultimate development of commercial products,” Verizon said in its Special Temporary Authority (STA) application with the FCC. “The testing will benefit the public interest by enabling the pre-commercial testing of new products outside of a lab environment but in a controlled and managed manner.”

According to a separate filing, Verizon will conduct the tests in Oklahoma City, Raleigh and Cary, North Carolina, and Irving, Texas.

Verizon said the tests will involve a total of 40 small cells, both indoor and outdoor. “The LTE small cell will simultaneously transmit a single 20 MHz signal in a 5 GHz band and an LTE in the PCS band or AWS band. Mobile devices will operate near the small cell sites with the transmitter parameters,” Verizon said. “LTE mobile devices support PCS/AWS FDD operation with an LTE uplink in the PCS/AWS bands but are receive only for LTE in the 5 GHz band. Mobile devices also support 802.11 modes in the requested 5 GHz band.”

However, Verizon said its LTE-U tests are separate from the coexistence test plan recently released by the Wi-Fi Alliance. “In addition to the product development testing described above, Verizon and our partner companies intend to conduct separate and independent LTE-U/Wi-Fi coexistence testing in a real-world environment at a Verizon facility using a coexistence test plan being developed by the Wi-Fi Alliance,” Verizon said. “This test plan is a product of extensive technical collaboration between the Wi-Fi Alliance, and Verizon’s partner companies and would be modified as appropriate based on the specific environment to be used for the testing. This Wi-Fi Alliance test plan will initially be used for joint coexistence testing to take place within a Wi-Fi Alliance certified lab.”

Verizon’s comments are notable because the Wi-Fi Alliance’s coexistence test plan has generated a significant amount of conflict between cellular companies like Verizon and Wi-Fi proponents like Google.

The Wi-Fi Alliance’s coexistence test plan, created at the urging of the FCC, is designed to show whether LTE-U technologies would interfere with existing users of unlicensed frequencies like Wi-Fi users. Representatives from Verizon and T-Mobile have said they will use the coexistence test plan hammered out through the Wi-Fi Alliance before they deploy any LTE-U equipment.