FCC Approves LTE-U Devices That Share 5GHz Spectrum With Wi-Fi

FCC Chairman Pai called the move a "significant advance in wireless innovation and a big win for wireless customers".

The announcement came on the same day the Federal Communications Commission authorized "LTE for unlicensed" (LTE-U) devices on the 5GHz spectrum. WiFi broadcasts over unlicensed airwaves, searching for an open channel before broadcasting.

The LTE-U devices have been approved after FCC staff has certified that they are in compliance with FCC rules.

Google itself declined to comment on the matter, but pointed to a statement from WiFiForward - a coalition that includes Google, Microsoft, Comcast, and other cable and internet companies - which praised the FCC for letting the industry work to the WiFi Alliance's test plan, and expressed support for said plan.

Both sides presented their cases to the FCC, which launched a proceeding to examine the issue during the previous administration. While wireless groups had pitched LTE-U as a solution for carriers looking to improve speeds, opponents have anxious that the LTE-U traffic could cause interference with Wi-Fi networks that ran on nearby frequencies. These devices and Wi-Fi operations can co-exist in the 5GHz band, as has been demonstrated by voluntary industry testing. "This is an example of yet another great innovation using unlicensed spectrum".

The capacity-enhancing deployment of LTE-U has been initiated by T-Mobile US Inc (NASDAQ:TMUS) and this will require new smartphones that achieve compatibility with the technology.

"Today's FCC certification follows more than three years of extensive research, development and testing to ensure LTE-U works well alongside Wi-Fi technologies", the post reads. T-Mobile already has more capacity per subscriber than AT&T and Verizon, and the addition of LTE-U will only extend that lead and further improve the Un-carrier's blazing-fast speeds.

"Whether LTE-U proves to be helpful or harmful to consumers remains to be seen", said Michael Calabrese, director of the New America Foundation's Wireless Future Program.

More LTE capacity is always a good thing, as it enables you to get faster speeds while you're out and about.

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