After nearly three years of work, Qualcomm is set for a commercial roll-out of its LTE-U chipset, the company’s vice president of Small Cells Neville Meijers said.
In an interview with WirelessWeek at CES2016 in Las Vegas last week, Meijers said U.S. carrier Verizon will be the first wireless operator to commercially deploy the technology in the second half of 2016.
Verizon declined to comment on its LTE-U roll-out strategy for this story or provide a timeline for when the chipset will be available in handsets. However, the carrier has previously announced plans to test LTE-U small cells with Samsung in hopes of a 2016 commercial launch of the technology.
According to Meijers, the idea behind LTE-U is the aggregation of both licensed and unlicensed spectrum to provide a better customer experience. The combination, he said, will allow carriers to leverage the benefits of licensed spectrum, such as security, better air interface and mobility, while using unlicensed spectrum mainly in the 5GHz band as a data pipe.
“The concept (with LTE-U) is to leverage these huge swaths of unlicensed spectrum to help with the data challenge,” Meijers said. “There are a lot of operators who want to adopt it and who have indicated they will adopt it. And then there are operators who have adopted carrier-based Wi-Fi who are looking at it as well…A lot of benefits can be brought to bear for the consumer and that’s why carriers are so interested in it.”
Meijers addressed concerns about Wi-Fi interference by explaining that the LTE-U-LAA solution has been designed to coexist with Wi-Fi, sharing the band as well or better than Wi-Fi itself.
In a demonstration of the technology at CES, the introduction of LTE-U changed the band-sharing dynamic from 80/20 with two Wi-Fi sharers to nearly 50/50 between Wi-Fi and LTE-U. At times, LTE-U even backed off its band usage when Wi-Fi demand spiked to allow for better sharing.
Qualcomm has said in the past that the push for Wi-Fi/LTE-U coexistence is a common sense move for the company, which also has a substantial Wi-Fi business.
Meijers said Qualcomm’s new ecosystem will also support LWA, which is LTE/Wi-Fi aggregation.
Meijers said Qualcomm is also working on two other unlicensed spectrum initiatives, including Universal LTE (Neutral Host) and a project dubbed MuLTEfire that would allow unlicensed carriers to deliver LTE-like performance using unlicensed spectrum.