A Return to Permission-Less Innovation

Posted by: Joan Marsh on August 22, 2016 at 2:41 pm

The latest chapter of the Wi-Fi vs. LTE-U saga unfolded this month as the Wi-Fi Alliance (WFA) announced that, after many months, it was finally closing in on an approved LTE-U coexistence test plan but surprised everyone by suggesting that the test plan should also include LTE-LAA. To understand why this is so aggravating, we need to take a little trip in the not-so-way-back machine.

A year ago, when the whole LTE-U brouhaha erupted, the Wi-Fi proponents advanced two primary complaints.

First, the Wi-Fi proponents argued that LTE-U had not been standardized, but instead was an un-scrutinized proprietary technology. It was further argued that the unlicensed community always worked together cooperatively and that the LTE-U proponents had somehow violated that unwritten code.

As a preliminary matter, that’s simply not the case. There are many unlicensed devices that are not particularly cooperative with Wi-Fi. One report estimates that 76% of the interference into home Wi-Fi systems comes from baby monitors, microwaves and cordless phones; and no one manufacturing those devices had to seek permission from the WFA to proceed or submit to WFA co-existence testing. I would also note that LTE-U relies on LTE Releases standardized in 3GPP.

Read More

The Wi-Fi / LTE Unlicensed
Debate: A Path Forward

Posted by: Joan Marsh on November 12, 2015 at 10:48 am

Much ink has been spilled to date on the question of whether and how, and under what conditions, Wi-Fi and LTE unlicensed technologies can peacefully co-exist in existing and new unlicensed bands.  I don’t propose to add to that growing body of literature.  I write instead to endorse a path forward: One that side-steps the prolonged battle of the interference testing that is currently underway; one that walks back from the invitation to the FCC to crawl inside the inner workings of new LTE unlicensed technologies to examine everything from received energy to exponential back-off mechanisms; and one that was originally proposed by Harold Feld in his epic multi-installment blog on this issue.

I start from the battle lines as currently drawn.  Wi-Fi proponents have asserted, and appear to fervently believe, that LTE unlicensed proponents are completely indifferent toward Wi-Fi services deployed in bands like 5 GHz, and are prepared to launch new LTE unlicensed services that will destroy them.  As a result, Wi-Fi proponents have engaged in a multi-front campaign against the new LTE unlicensed technologies at the Commission, on the Hill and at football stadiums across the country – focusing, at least at the outset, on LTE-U but reserving some healthy skepticism for LTE-LAA as well.

LTE unlicensed proponents have responded with a clear demonstration that their new unlicensed devices will fully comply with Part 15 of the FCC’s rules and they have provided a detailed catalog of reasons why they believe the Wi-Fi proponents are wrong and their fears badly misplaced.  They have also pointed out that there appears to be no way to meet the ever-changing threshold of co-existence proof that the Wi-Fi proponents are demanding.

Read More

Choosing the Right Way

Posted by: Frank Simone on July 28, 2015 at 11:39 am

In the hypercompetitive wireless market, mobile service providers are constantly pushing the envelope to bring better, faster and cheaper services to consumers. Such is the case with the ability to make voice calls over Wi-Fi networks, which enables consumers to make calls in areas that are challenging to serve, like deep indoors, underground and in remote parts of the country.  And because the wireless market moves at a hypercompetitive speed, with several competitors already offering Wi-Fi calling, we have requested that the FCC move with similar speed to act on AT&T’s waiver petition so we can deploy Wi-Fi while maintaining compliance with existing FCC rules.

As we prepare to roll out the service later this year, we’ve made it a top priority to ensure that the new technology is accessible to our customers who are deaf, hard of hearing or have experienced hearing loss, or have speech disabilities.  Some of these customers currently use a 1960’s era technology called a teletypewriter, or TTY.  Current FCC rules require voice services to be TTY- compatible, with specific requirements to transmit 911 (public safety) and 711 (telecom relay services) calls made from a TTY device. The challenge mobile service providers now face is that TTY doesn’t work reliably on Wi-Fi technology because of its sensitivity to packet loss and the considerable variance in Wi-Fi signal strength in real-world applications. We therefore have begun working to implement an alternate solution called Real-Time Text, or RTT.

Read More

The White Space Black Hole

Posted by: Joan Marsh on April 2, 2015 at 12:09 pm

In 2008, in the wake of the 700 MHz auction, Google held a conference call to reveal its plans for “Wi-Fi on steroids” – a broadband wireless service to be delivered coast to coast via unlicensed white space devices, all in time for the 2009 Christmas holiday.  I remember reading a blog comment around that time mocking AT&T and Verizon for “wasting” billions of dollars on licensed spectrum in the 700 MHz auction when troves of valuable unlicensed spectrum would soon be available for free.

In 2010, the FCC adopted white space rules that white space supporters argued set the stage for the next generation of wireless technologies to emerge.  One reporter declared that “there is no stopping the white space gold rush that is about to begin.”

It’s now 2015.  The licensed 700 MHz allocations that were sold in 2008 have been the bedrock for billions of dollars of investment in wireless networks that now form the catalyst for U.S. leadership in LTE wireless technologies.  And hundreds of millions of U.S. consumers now enjoy 4G LTE wireless services as a result of those investments.

On the white spaces front, an Internet search reveals only a scattering of small scale white spaces tests and deployments, with even less information available about the scope or success of those efforts.

Perhaps the most insightful evidence of white space activity comes from an emergency petition on the White Space Database recently filed by the National Association of Broadcasters (NAB).  From this petition we learn two critical facts.  First, after five years of effort, there are fewer than 1,000 devices registered in the database.  Apparently the gold rush was not even a trickle.

Read More

AT&T Statement on FCC’s 5 GHz
Band Plan and Unlicensed Spectrum

Posted by: AT&T Blog Team on February 20, 2013 at 12:35 pm

Attribute the following to an AT&T spokesperson:

“Clearing and auctioning spectrum below 3 GHz for exclusive, licensed use must remain a priority for the U.S. Government as we continue to seek ways to address the growing spectrum crunch and the ever growing demand for mobile broadband services.  However, freeing up spectrum for unlicensed uses can also play an important role in more fully utilizing spectrum that is not ideal for mobile broadband use. 

“AT&T has long recognized the value of unlicensed spectrum technologies, such as Wi-Fi, and we have built the nation’s largest Wi-Fi network.  We fully support efforts to explore new unlicensed technologies that can play an important role in driving incremental network efficiency.  Today’s action by the Commission is designed to do just that by making more unlicensed spectrum available in the 5 GHz band.  It’s a step in the right direction, as is the Commission’s recent proposal to allow spectrum sharing in the 3.5 GHz band, as the industry tackles the insatiable demand for wireless services.”

Read More