LTE-WiFi debate exposes spectrum land grab: Page 4 of 4

May 11, 2015 //By Junko Yoshida
When the Federal Communications Commission issued a public notice last week seeking information on LTE-Unlicensed (LTE-U) and Licensed Assisted Access (LAA), many media outlets tended to frame the news as a technical debate on the possibility of peaceful co-existence between two competing wireless technologies: LTE-U/LAA versus WiFi.

LAA to challenge FCC

Real Wireless’ Baine contemplates the future in which the whole idea of LAA could potentially alter the definition of unlicensed spectrum itself.

Today, he explained, the rules on unlicensed specify a fairly low bar and are deliberately technology neutral. WiFi, Bluetooth, garage door openers, baby monitors, etc., all use the same band.

Baine acknowledged that over time WiFi has developed better, smarter and politer protocols, improving performance. “But they are delicate, and they rely on implicit assumptions that there aren't other things there (or aren't too many). In effect, they behave as though the unlicensed band were not technology neutral but were WiFi only,” he said.

In his view, “LAA changes it.”

Baines said, “Even if LAA obeys the rules, it can still stomp on WiFi. It can be more assertive, more ‘shouty’ and over-run WiFi.”

In his view, there lies a huge conflict almost impossible to resolve. “Does unlicensed band stay technology neutral - and risk LAA stopping WiFi from working? Or can the FCC change the philosophy and say ‘it’s no longer technology neutral, it is WiFi-only?"

Or even a bigger question is, Baine said, “Can you do that worldwide?”

About the author

Junko Yoshida, Chief International Correspondent, EE Times

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