First LTE-U Devices Okayed for 5G Operation

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The FCC has authorized the first LTE-U (for unlicensed) devices in the 5 GHz band. FCC Chairman Ajit Pai called Wednesday’s action “a significant advance in wireless innovation and a big win” for wireless customers. The action comes after saying broadband deployment is a Commission priority earlier in the day (see story below).

What is LTE-U? According to T-Mobile, “LTE-U devices and equipment intelligently tap into and share underutilized unlicensed spectrum without affecting other users on the same band, including those using conventional Wi-Fi. LTE-U constantly seeks the least utilized channels to maximize efficiency and performance for everyone. As demand on the Wi-Fi network increases, LTE-U backs off, and as Wi-Fi demand wanes, customers can tap into that unused capacity for LTE.”

The FCC’s Office of Engineering and Technology has certified that the LTE-U devices being approved comply with Commission rules.

Voluntary industry testing demonstrated that both these devices and WiFi operations can co-exist in the 5 GHz band, according to OET Chief Engineer Julius Knapp, who called it a “technical breakthrough in the many shared uses of this spectrum.

The FCC told Inside Towers the agency approved one device from Ericsson and another from Nokia. The devices are LTE base stations with Part 15 unlicensed transmitters. The transmitters were previously approved as LTE base stations. “The grants issued today are for the ability for the devices to operate under Part 15 rules in the 5 GHz band,” said a spokesman.

February 23, 2017

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