Verizon testing LTE over unlicensed frequencies, exec says

LAS VEGAS--Verizon Wireless (NYSE:VZ) is testing LTE delivered over unlicensed spectrum as a complement to LTE over its licensed spectrum, said Mike Haberman, the operator's vice president of network support, during FierceWireless breakfast panel on "The 5G Roadmap: How do we plan for tomorrow's wireless networks?" The event, held in conjunction with CTIA's Super Mobility Week, was chaired by Sue Marek, editor in chief of FierceWireless.

 "We're looking hard at Unlicensed LTE," Haberman said, though he did not provide details on Verizon's trials of the technology.

Unlicensed LTE, also known as LTE-U, was recently renamed by 3GPP as Licensed-Assisted Access (LAA) to stress the point to government spectrum regulators that the use of LTE on a secondary carrier in an unlicensed band would be accompanied by a licensed primary carrier.

Haberman made his comments as the panelists discussed the merits of licensed vs. unlicensed spectrum and how both will be used to deliver massive amounts of data quickly, efficiently and cost effectively. Addressing the fact that different camps have traditionally supported the two types of spectrum, Aicha Evans, vice president of Intel's platform engineering group, commented: "It is going to be a mix and we need to stop fighting about it."

Kris Rinne, senior vice president of network technologies, AT&T Labs, noted AT&T (NYSE:T) has a massive Wi-Fi footprint and has long been a proponent of cellular-to-Wi-Fi offloading. "We put Wi-Fi into a single bucket and it's multiple buckets," she noted, explaining that use cases for Wi-Fi vary considerably depending upon whether it is deployed within a home, enterprise of public location.

Broadly speaking, 5G will likely include a necessary speed boost that delivers data at 10 to 100 times the current typical user data rate and has a five times reduction in end-to-end latency. But overall, the elements and capabilities of 5G are still a few years from being nailed down, and that really is the nature of the beast, given that this next generation of wireless technology will intentionally be composed of multiple solutions to address a broad range of issues and use cases, the panelists said.

"5G is going to be a basket of capabilities," and will entail fundamental shifts in how the industry deals with signaling, payload and more, said Ericsson (NASDAQ: ERIC) CMO Arun Bhikshevaran, who stressed 5G, unlike previous generations of wireless technology, will be about much more than just the radio access technology.

Rinne said 5G will be composed of "a network of networks," which will leverage today's technologies and networks but will also integrate new capabilities and spectrum, including higher-bands of frequencies, including millimeter-wave spectrum. 5G will not be "a new radio access technology deployed ubiquitously across the country," she added.

Haberman stressed that efforts around 5G should focus on "what it is we are really trying to do" rather than developing technology for the sake of doing something different.

Responding to a question from the audience, Chris Pearson, president of trade group 4G Americas, observed that some carriers, as many did with so-called 4G technologies, will likely start marketing 5G long before their networks meet 5G specs as set forth by standards groups.

He noted there are already vendors and operators saying they are trialing 5G, even though the International Telecommunications Union (ITU) has not issued requirements regarding how that technology will be defined. Given that, "I don't think you should expect a whole lot of restraint out there," he said.

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