AT&T's Keathley: We are testing LTE-U but LAA is a better option

A top AT&T (NYSE: T) network executive said the company is currently testing LTE-U technology to see if it can ensure that there is fair-use sharing with Wi-Fi. However, he added that he believes that in the long run Licensed-Assisted Access, or LAA, which ensures listen-before-talk capability, will be the best option for transmitting LTE signals in unlicensed spectrum.

In an interview with FierceWireless, Tom Keathley, senior vice president of wireless network architecture and design with AT&T, said that the company is currently testing LTE-U but it has not decided whether to deploy it. Keathley added that the company does not have any results of its LTE-U trial to share at this time.

However, Keathley did say that if the company does decide to deploy LTE-U, the technology will be upgradeable to the LAA standard when that technology is available. LAA is in the 3GPP standards process and will likely be slower to commercial deployment than LTE-U, which was designed outside the open standards bodies and has raised the ire of the cable and Wi-Fi industries.

LTE-U devices are nearing completion. Just last month Qualcomm received FCC approval to conduct tests of LTE-U equipment at two Verizon (NYSE: VZ) sites in Oklahoma City, Okla., and Raleigh, N.C. LTE-U devices will require equipment authorization by the FCC before they can be marketed in the United States.

Both Verizon Wireless and T-Mobile US (NYSE:TMUS) have been more bullish on LTE-U than AT&T. T-Mobile has said it will deploy LAA in 5 GHz spectrum this year. Verizon, for its part, has said it will deploy LTE-U in the 5 GHz and 3.5 GHz spectrum this year.

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