Wi-Fi group claims ‘extraordinary compromise’ on LTE-U, but Qualcomm begs to differ

Qualcomm has been a major proponent for LTE-U for years. Image credit: Qualcomm

The same day Wi-Fi proponents championed the compromises that were made to finalize the Wi-Fi Alliance’s coexistence test plan for LTE-U and Wi-Fi, Qualcomm, one of the biggest proponents for LTE-U, threw cold water all over those assertions.

WifiForward, a coalition that includes Comcast, Broadcom, Boingo Wireless and others, issued a statement this week applauding the Wi-Fi Alliance’s efforts to reach a compromise in its test plan for making sure LTE-U and Wi-Fi can coexist in unlicensed spectrum. Last week, representatives from Comcast and CableLabs met with FCC engineering staff to discuss that very plan, saying that the Wi-Fi Alliance test plan is “an extraordinary compromise on the part of Wi-Fi proponents” because it would mean that the test plan leaves half of all outdoor Wi-Fi connections vulnerable to LTE-U degradation.

“CableLabs and others have nonetheless advanced this proposal in order to move the test plan to conclusion,” Comcast Counsel Paul Margie wrote in an ex parte filing to the commission.

WifiForward said the decisions related to the test plan reflected a compromise driven by a diverse group of stakeholders, including both LTE-U and Wi-Fi proponents who sit on the Wi-Fi Alliance board.

“Neither side received its preferred outcome,” WifiForward said in a statement. “In fact, half of all Wi-Fi hotspots will remain unprotected by the test, a significant challenge for the Wi-Fi community and consumers moving forward. But now is the time for all parties to accept this compromise and move toward concluding the process as quickly as possible. We therefore agree with T-Mobile and Nokia’s recent comments that they should be able to test LTE-U coexistence as soon as the Wi-Fi Alliance test plan is finalized in the coming weeks. We hope that no party will seek to endlessly ​relitigate the Wi-Fi Alliance's compromise plan and cause delay."

Yet based on its statement released Wednesday, Qualcomm is having none of it. “The latest version of the test plan released by the Wi-Fi Alliance lacks technical merit, is fundamentally biased against LTE-U, and rejects virtually all the input that Qualcomm provided for the last year, even on points that were not controversial,” said Dean Brenner, senior vice president of government affairs at Qualcomm, in a statement.

“We saw that a Wi-Fi group yesterday called this new version of the plan a compromise. In truth, we submitted a compromise proposal which the Wi-Fi Alliance rejected in its entirety and instead issued this plan, which has the clear purpose of trying to keep the benefits of LTE-U away from consumers and off the unlicensed spectrum, which is supposed to be for all of us,” he added. “The latest version of the plan would require LTE-U to protect Wi-Fi 100 times more than Wi-Fi would protect LTE-U in all environments under criteria that ignore data submitted to the Wi-Fi Alliance, including data from Wi-Fi vendors. Moreover, the plan is not based on any real, commercial Wi-Fi to Wi-Fi baseline, contrary to the WFA’s own guiding principles for this whole coexistence test plan effort. 

“Instead, it sets a bar for LTE-U that pretends that all Wi-Fi access points are made by a single vendor even using the same chipset and software release, in identical link conditions, communicating with a few cherry-picked Wi-Fi device models,” he said. Brenner also added that the plan even contains a test that has nothing to do with spectrum sharing at all and would convert an optional 3GPP feature into a mandatory requirement “on an issue that literally has nothing to do with how LTE-U and Wi-Fi share spectrum.”

While Qualcomm representatives pointed out that the company has business and technology interests in both LTE-U and Wi-Fi, those in the Wi-Fi community don’t see it compromising on Wi-Fi.

“It is also unfortunate that cellular industry proponents of using LTE on unlicensed spectrum are now threatening to pull back from Wi-Fi coexistence testing they initially proposed and supported,” said Michael Calabrese, director of the Open Technology Institute’s (OTI) Wireless Future Project, in a statement. “We call on the FCC to ensure that all implementations of unlicensed LTE devices pass the entire test and coexist fairly with Wi-Fi. The test results will help the FCC decide if LTE-U, which will be controlled from licensed spectrum bands, can coexist with Wi-Fi, the unlicensed technology that has proven critical to schools, consumers and the U.S. economy as it carries 80 percent of all mobile device data traffic."

Although Qualcomm declined to comment further on what next steps it might take, it looks like the matter could be landing in the FCC’s court, something the industry has been striving to avoid.

“The latest version of the test plan goes so far as to threaten to cover LAA as well in a future update, even though LAA has already completed a global standards process in 3GPP based upon input from all Wi-Fi stakeholders and even though 3GPP is establishing its own test plan for LAA,” Brenner said in his statement. “For all of these reasons, the latest version test plan is unacceptable. It is especially unfortunate since the Wi-Fi Alliance could have produced a plan incorporating our compromise and our other input, but decided not to do so. We believe that the FCC should disregard this latest version of the plan, particularly because the watchword for unlicensed spectrum is supposed to be permission-less innovation, not incumbent protection.”

For more:
- see this filing (PDF)

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