With ever more devices trying to squeeze growing volumes of mobile data through a limited number of LTE frequencies, Verizon is leading the push for use of unlicensed frequencies – known as LTE-Unlicensed, or LTE-U. As well as increasing capacity, LTE-U would potentially offer faster speeds.

The problem? These are the same frequencies used by WiFi, Bloomberg reporting that Google, Microsoft, Comcast and other oppose rapid adoption for this reason.

The three companies have been among a group lobbying the Federal Communications Commission to delay LTE-U’s adoption pending further tests [claiming that it] “would substantially degrade consumer Wi-Fi service across the country.”

The companies argue that while both existing LTE frequencies and WiFi play nicely when it comes to competing demand for use of the same airwaves, LTE-U doesn’t … 

NordVPN

Wireless carriers run central scheduling software that tells each phone when to transmit on a particular bandwidth, like air traffic control for phone signals. Wi-Fi networks typically rely more on a kind of listen-before-talking system, with each device checking a desired slice of spectrum to make sure it’s available [but] LTE-U “can essentially take over.”

Verizon isn’t the only carrier pushing for the use of LTE-U: T-Mobile has also been testing it in shopping malls and sports venues. Those opposed to it say that they simply want to see a proper approvals process before it is adopted.

The FCC, who would ultimately need to make the call, doesn’t appear keen to do so, asking the companies involved in the dispute to figure it out amongst themselves.

“Folks, you’ve got to come together and resolve this in a broad-based standard,” FCC Chairman Wheeler said.

An FCC spokesman did, however, agree that the agency would step in “if necessary.”

About the Author

Ben Lovejoy's favorite gear