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The battle between LTE and Wi-Fi may have left LTE-U out in the cold

Stephen Lawson | April 12, 2016
After a long fight over LTE-U, some carriers may go straight to the less controversial LAA anyway

LTE-U was intended as a way to get unlicensed LTE out into the market without waiting for the 3GPP, which governs LTE, to build LAA into the next release of the standard. But the fight over coexistence with Wi-Fi further narrowed what was already a brief gap for LTE-U to fill.

“This process has taken longer than some of the advocates of LTE-U were anticipating,” Marshall said. After months of conflict, a light finally appeared at the end of the tunnel when both sides agreed to create a testing regimen.

So, is this a victory for opponents of LTE-U? Not necessarily. Vendors may have been overly optimistic if they expected carriers to jump on a new, interim technology just for a brief head start. Mobile operators like their gear to meet global standards, and it usually takes them longer than expected to roll out anything new, said analyst Peter Jarich of Current Analysis.

Plus, LAA appears ready to march forward with little opposition from Wi-Fi backers. This might be thanks in part to the battle that’s already been fought over LTE-U, said Marshall, who believes neither system actually poses a threat to Wi-Fi.

Without LTE-U, “it would have played out with LAA being the focal point of concern,” he said.


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