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LAA, CBRS, LTE-U are 5G Building Blocks!

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Carrier Aggregation and Private LTE

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Hey, guess what? Remember when I talked about LAA, LTE-U, and CBRS, well, we’re almost there! That’s right, all those add-ons that we talked about over a year ago may finally be released. The new CBRS spectrum in the US creates new opportunities. It will be a game changer once the FCC decides what will happen with the spectrum. I just want to deploy, something they are delaying even longer, over a year, come on, release something! Sorry, it’s just that government holds back the economy by trying to improve it, this is a classic example. It happens in every administration.

Let’s look at 2 things, 1) a way to supplement what the carriers have, and, 2) a private LTE network. While you think this is just another Get the Wireless Deployment Handbook today!system, it’s on the road to 5G. That’s right, we need spectrum, and there is plenty of it. Where? I’ll tell you if you have the nerve to read on.

LAA – Licensed Assisted Access

First, it’s the ISM spectrum, you know it better as the Wi-Fi spectrum. It could be 900MHz, 2.4GHz, 5.8GHz or even 60GHz. All that spectrum that Wi-Fi could operate in, but they primarily use 2.4GHz and 5.8GHz. Now we can run LTE in that spectrum; it’s called LTE-U and Qualcomm created MuLTEfire to allow LTE to run without a core. You heard me, an independent LTE-U hotspot that the carriers and your device will like a lot.

LTE-U is in the spectrum of Wi-Fi but is true LTE. It’s in the unlicensed band. MuLTEfire is a stand-alone LTE unit. While that doesn’t mean much now it will when all the devices have it, like your smartphone. Learn more here, https://www.multefire.org/about/ if you’re interested in learning more. Maybe you want to read a book, available on Amazon with my affiliate link, found here, where you can learn more about LTE in unlicensed bands. It’s going to be great when we can use LTE for everything. I see this as a great thing. RCR wrote about it last year, https://www.rcrwireless.com/20170530/network-infrastructure/what-is-multefire-tag6-tag99. It’s really a great thing.

Why? I am glad you asked. You see the carriers can use LTE-U to gain bandwidth with their current LTE spectrum. They use something called LAA, which I wrote about in the past, but now it’s right around the corner. What’s that? You don’t remember anything about LAA, let’s have a flashback! LAA, which is soon to be used by the primary carriers to build up throughput, is Licensed Assist Access. That uses carrier aggregation to aggregate, (make all the RF carriers look like one big pipe), create separate streams that all combine in the end users’ device to make the throughput go through the roof. We are talking about throughput closer to 1Gbps to the device. Hell, I would settle for 100Mbps to happen.

There is also LWA, Licensed Wi-Fi Aggregation, same as the above but it uses Wi-Fi to aggregate. Now, you’re wondering why LWA isn’t the preferred choice, right? I would say because it’s so much work to get Wi-Fi to work with LTE. Seriously, those 2 formats are not playing well together. They have delay differences and to be honest the carriers are sick and tired of trying to make it work. I will give T-Mobile a lot of credit because they seemed to have a solid way to make it work. I am not sure why, but they don’t seem to push it anymore, not sure why.

So, what is the better choice? LAA using the licensed LTE with the unlicensed LTE-U. LTE is a great format baby! I love it, in fact, 5G will love it too, it will be the foundation for 5G, even with the NR coming out. That’s right! The carriers will be rolling out LAA very soon. They have faith in it. Carrier aggregation rocks! It will allow all of them to unify LTE is all bands, including CBRS.

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CBRS – Citizen’s Broadband Radio System

That’s right, CBRS rocks! It will allow you, the end-user, to build a lightly licensed spectrum, like 3.5GHz here in the USA, and build your own LTE network along with the LTE-U. CBRS is in the 3.5GHz spectrum, and it is lightly licensed thanks to an advances licensing system that uses ASA to assign spectrum. It works a lot like your DHCP server only for spectrum. How cool is that?

When I interviewed both Art King (of SpiderCloud) and Steve Martin (of Ruckus) they helped me understand how awesome the CBRS spectrum is going to be for the enterprise user as well as the wireless internet service provider, (WISP). It will open new doors and allow WISPs everywhere to align with the carriers if they want to aggregate the carrier.

But wait, there’s more! The carriers will be using this spectrum as well. In fact, T-Mobile is a major reason the delay is happening. They want to buy more of the spectrum and hold onto it much longer. I’m okay with that, but why don’t they ask the FCC to get off their ass and release something already? They don’t seem to be in a hurry. I guess because they are rolling out 600MHz now. That is a major effort on their part. I appreciate it because it brings a lot of work to the deployment industry, and GOD knows we need it. You heard me! It’s feast or famine in this industry. Now I am straying off topic, sorry.

CBRS is also LTE, and it’s something that the carrier separately 5g-deployment-plan-front-cover-3k-pixelswants to roll out as part of their small cell model. It’s perfect spectrum for small cells. Lower power, smaller coverage area, and new spectrum that can be rolled out anywhere. I love it and so will you when you get your own small cell in the CBRS spectrum.

Hey, guess who else will love it? Public safety, utilities, small business, enterprise, and anyone who wants to extend their coverage. I know, Wi-Fi is nice, but the LTE format will open new doors, and lightly licensed spectrum will help security. I can’t wait until every smart device has this spectrum in it.

Carrier Aggregation made this possible!

I would say thank you to the OEMs for coming out with carrier aggregation. It is the sole feature that made this possible. It is a remarkable technology that the carriers are currently using only in the licensed spectrum. They are currently using this technology only on their own licensed channels. Some of them on multiple bands across spectrum or maybe in the same spectrum. Here’s the deal, they can expand beyond their own spectrum, how cool is that. They may want players, so keep your ear open, and maybe they will want partners. It could happen.

What about the devices?

Nokia has already released their small cells. Ruckus has a CBRS unit. SpiderCloud has their unit. There you go, real units in the real world just waiting for you to deploy! Deploy, deploy, deploy! Do it ASAP. We’re still waiting on more UE devices to get the spectrum, but it’s coming, have faith, my friends.

How can this help you?

OK, it’s all about you! I can explain it to the industry you’re in. Let’s look below at the list to understand where you fit in.

  • Enterprise users – you will be able to build something much more secure than Wi-Fi. A network in the CBRS will be lightly licensed and something that most users will not have access to. You could dedicate it to your network and have specific devices with that spectrum to allow low latency and dedicated spectrum for whatever you want to use it for. Security and dedicated spectrum would allow you to do secure functions without running cables everywhere.
  • ISPs – If you’re an internet service provider you have an option to supplement your income by striking a deal with any carrier to use LAA on LTE-U or CBRS to aggregate the carriers licensed LTE with your spectrum. If you have already built it, then they may see value in what you have. Why not?
  • Installers – if you have the opportunity then you can install these devices indoors and out. On poles usually, they are low power and will reach the end-user much like Wi-Fi on these will be small cells. The CBRS will be rolling out everywhere. While the carriers want a higher power unit the reality is this will be an extension of the network and should work well within the realm of 5G.
  • Backhaul – Fiber providers, backhaul providers, and the router companies can make a play to gain market share in the smaller business groups.
  • Carriers – the carriers will look at this as the icing on the cake. They can extend coverage by partnering with smaller users for a flat fee or by reciprocating services. The chances are good that they will want to build their own smaller networks where they can, but that whole idea here is that they don’t want to increase CapEx. That’s why the partnership to extend coverage looks natural and attractive. FYI – this is cheaper than putting in licensed radio heads.
  • Building and venue owners – if you looked at DAS as the saving grace, look at this as an easier way to do upgrades. This is an easy way to expand coverage by running CAT 5 or CAT 6 to the new small cell areas. By putting in LTE-U or CBRS, you can quickly and easily extend coverage. It’s a natural alternative to putting in more licensed radio heads.
  • OEMs and distributors – you can move product. Nokia, SpiderCloud, and Ruckus have already jumped on the bandwagon with products for LTE-U and CBRS that are carrier grade. They all are targeting the user mentioned in this report. Do they know something you don’t? Not if you read the blogs at Wade4Wireless.com!
  • Public Safety – here is a market that could really benefit from I know they are all waiting for the AT&T deployment, sorry, I meant to say FirstNet roll out. The thing is, they will have a choice between AT&T, sorry, I mean FirstNet and Verizon’s system. It all depends where they are at because the coverage varies that much and while the budget matters, they really need to have coverage first. If the coverage is there, then they can look at cost. They may rely on their own networks like they do today. If that is the case, they may want to try to deploy their own broadband network and put it where they need it.
  • Utilities – I see the utility market needing this for their smart meters and remote connections. They can use something like this to reach all the area that the carriers can’t or at least as an alternative to paying carriers for their IOT systems. Then they may be able to expand the network to serve more than the meters by allowing end users to put their IOT devices on these networks. It is a viable alternative.
  • Cable companies – I see the cable companies rolling out LTE-U and CBRS because it’s so cost-effective and it fits into their current model. Granted, they love Wi-Fi, but they will see great value in rolling out LTE-U and CBRS if they can partner with the carriers. They could use it as a bargaining chip when they want to become an MVNO, like Comcast, with the large What leverage they will have when they can use their network to reach millions of their customers with an LTE network of their own. Awesome!
  • Autonomous vehicles – I don’t know who will use this, but it is a viable way to communicate with vehicles in the urban areas. It would have to be a dense network, but it could supplement the carrier’s network.
  • Google – yes, Google has a lot to gain with their Loon network and to replace the FTTH network which we all thought would be our savior from the choices we have now. One thing that Google learned is that it costs a lot of money to deploy fiber. It’s a lot more than what you see in the data center. If they use this technology like they say they will, then we will have our new ISP competitor that could make a difference overnight, well, in a few years maybe.
  • The workforce – I see the workforce benefiting from this because we are going to have to engineer and deploy the systems for all the potential service providers. Let’s build the best networks we can. Let’s build the ecosystem beyond the carriers to the smaller business owners. We can make a difference by helping cities become smart, utilities being connected, public safety has a broader reach and more partners, and the carriers are relying on individuals beyond their strong list of partners. We have the opportunity to go beyond the “norm” and into an open distribution system. We can do it, so let’s make the difference today!

Summary:

Do you believe that this could be a game changer? I do! I think that this is going to be the thing that pushed the outer users to 5G and includes them as part of the ecosystem. It’s more than being a customer. It’s becoming a player in your niche. Finally, in wireless, we can all be players in the infrastructure network. We have become an active user and builder of the wireless networks beyond Wi-Fi. It’s exhilarating to me, and I look forward to having all of you as partners in this venture!

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Unlicensed LTE MulteFire Overview

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Could you have LTE-U deployed anywhere just like Wi-Fi? We all love Wi-Fi, right? I am a huge fan of Wi-Fi, mainly because it’s mostly free and available almost anywhere. We all love the bandwidth when it’s clean and has a good connection. We can install it at home with little effort. Did I mention I love that most of the time it’s free! Don’t we love the fact it saves on our mobile device bill? We love free bandwidth and free data. It sure beats paying the carriers for the extra data used in our homes.

What if we could get better bandwidth with LTE-U? What if LTE-U could be a standalone format? It appears that MulteFire will be the LTE version of Wi-Fi. It is a standalone LTE-U format that Qualcomm developed. Then Nokia backed and now Ericsson! They formed the MulteFire Alliance! It’s just like the Wireless Broadband Alliance, WBA, which is an alliance of Wi-Fi operators, OEMs, and vendors.

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Let’s start off with some basics. What is LTE-U? It’s simply LTE in the unlicensed band where Wi-Fi resides. It is a completely different format than Wi-Fi because it is LTE. The main advantage the carriers like about LTE-U is that the devices can jump from LTE to LTE much easier than LTE to Wi-Fi formats. If you are running VoLTE, it makes a difference. However, before MulteFire LTE-U had to be anchored to a carriers LTE spectrum in aggregation. I believe MulteFire could change that if I read it right.

LTE-U is something that the carriers want. For the carriers there are different ways to extend their coverage by doing aggregation with unlicensed frequencies, this can be Wi-Fi or LTE-U, I wrote about the ways they do this here. Here is a quick aggregation refresher. LWA = licensed LTE with Wi-Fi, LAA which is LTE licensed with LTE-U unlicensed. In this case the carrier’s licensed spectrum would be the anchor and the other spectrum would be used accordingly.

What makes MulteFire different? MulteFire would allow an unlicensed provider to provide LTE-U in the unlicensed band as a standalone. This is just like the way the Wi-Fi carriers work now, at least that is how I see it. While Qualcomm built this to sell their chips, I see it as a revolution moving forward by putting LTE everywhere! Way to go Qualcomm! The cable companies could really build a cool network with MulteFire. I would look at it as evolution for the unlicensed spectrum.

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The guys building out carrier class Wi-Fi don’t like to hear that because they have subscription models. Suddenly the carriers are appreciating these guys a lot more today because offload is a big deal in this digital data centric world we live in where apps and browsing rule the smartphone world we all live in. The carriers can’t keep up with all the data and they are looking to offload where they can. I am sure that T-Mobile’s Binge-On offer doesn’t help the loading issue, although they seem to be handling it very well. LTE appears to be very efficient and may really help the smartphone makers improve data upload and download in the unlicensed spectrum.

The Wi-Fi providers are concerned about interference from LTE-U. That may or may not be the issue. The test results appear to biased one way or the other so who knows. What I have seen in the real world is that if you have 5 Wi-Fi hotspots all lined up you see problems anyway. Maybe the same issue happens with LTE-U hotspots lined up with Wi-Fi but we will have to wait and see. LTE-U is still not in my world to play with, although I can’t wait until it is.

Will this spark small cell growth? Yes! We can put something like this in buildings it may really help with the extension of LTE coverage for all carriers. Verizon really likes this path. They are excited about the LTE-U spectrum. It may solve a lot of problems for them to deploy in many buildings where they would have had to put regular small cells. Now they plan add LTE-U small cells as a supplement to their coverage. If you do Verizon small cell work then get ready!

I think if this is deployed properly it could be an alternative to shared indoor DAS systems if the carriers can share the LTE-U hotspots. It may be a way to have a multicarrier coverage in a venue or building. I don’t see this at stadiums or arenas, but maybe in an office building where DAS or small cells don’t fit the budget. This is the space where Wi-Fi plays very well.

Drawbacks do exist just like they do for Wi-Fi! Remember that in the unlicensed bands you are very limited in power which means very limited coverage. There is no license so you could install it in a wide open area only to come back and see 6 other hotspots, Wi-Fi and LTE-U, right beside you in a week.

Currently there are security risks with Wi-Fi, supposedly LTE has better security, but once it’s in the unlicensed bands that may all change. I have a wait and see attitude.

I see this being deployed as a small cell. It would be something that the large OEMs would deploy first. I know that Nokia and Ericsson are already working on a product for the carriers. This will be exciting for the deployment teams.

This is a great opportunity to offer the carriers a venue where we could give LTE coverage with the option of tying back into the carrier for coverage. I also hope that this can be tied into the 3.5GHz spectrum here in the USA. I can’t wait until the FCC frees up more spectrum in the 3.5GHz band for LTE build outs. It will really help the utilities and the venues offer an alternative to the carriers. This will great increase competition and make a difference in who can deploy.

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http://www.wireless-mag.com/News/39941/multefire-alliance-formed-to-drive-lte-use-in-unlicensed-spectrum.aspx

https://blog.networks.nokia.com/partners-and-customers/2015/12/16/nokia-and-qualcomm-multefire-alliance-to-combine-lte-and-wifi/

https://www.google.com/url?sa=t&rct=j&q=&esrc=s&source=web&cd=3&ved=0ahUKEwiBlaz30rvKAhWMKyYKHQ5jBjUQFggnMAI&url=http%3A%2F%2Fnetworks.nokia.com%2Fsites%2Fdefault%2Ffiles%2Fdocument%2Fnokia_multefire_executive_summary_0.pdf&usg=AFQjCNFillRLKwwRtzFNMxiHTgXkaHzYcA&sig2=Yy3SwPqK0ehiwyfVG7IyDg&bvm=bv.112064104,d.eWE

https://www.qualcomm.com/news/onq/2015/06/11/introducing-multefire-lte-performance-wi-fi-simplicity

http://networks.nokia.com/portfolio/products/mobile-broadband/multefire

http://www.gadget.co.za/mutefire-targets-lte-cells/

https://www.abiresearch.com/blogs/multefire-vs-wi-fi-storm-tea-cup/

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LTE-U vs. Wi-Fi! Carriers vs. Cable Companies! Free Spectrum!

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Can you believe that companies are fighting over unlicensed spectrum? Seriously, who thought this could happen? The people who invested so heavily in Wi-Fi, like Comcast and Google , are angry at the carriers, specifically Verizon and T-Mobile, who want to make the most of the license free spectrum by deploying LTE-U. Who knew 5.8GHz would be so valuable? The unlicensed spectrum battleground! 

Hey Comcast, if you want to take out an opponent, then buy T-Mobile so you have one less carrier to worry about. Just a suggestion. 

Why would deployment teams care? All of you that work in deployment will care because if LTE-U takes off then it will mean a lot of work because it should be all new equipment deployed. I don’t know who will be the first to roll it out, but it will need to be engineered and built. If they don’t do it then it’s Wi-Fi as usual, with all of the updates and hopefully some new spectrum soon.  Think of it! If the cable companies roll it out first and they are in the best position to do so, then they could command the spectrum, or try to. From what I have seen, it takes the carriers a long time to deploy anything. The cable companies are nimble, they could do it quickly if they wanted to spend a few more $$$$$$$$$. Money is the issue, read on to find out more. 

Why do Wi-Fi groups care? These people spent a fortune building out Wi-Fi and they are counting on all the people with smartphones and tablets to subscribe to their service. They were also hoping to get the carriers offload traffic to make more money on the side. This may hurt their business and they are also worried, (in the US), that the LTE may tramp on the Wi-Fi signal. There is no listen before talk in the US, which is you ever worked in Wi-Fi you see daily on your spectrum analyzer. I think that most companies don’t bother with spectrum analysis for Wi-Fi anymore, what is the point? Seriously! 

Some background.  I believe you all know what spectrum Wi-Fi runs on and that Wi-Fi is the only thing there. I think most of you know what LTE-U is, but for those of you that don’t know, here is my take. LTE-U  is where Qualcomm (and Ericsson) worked together to create unlicensed LTE format in the 5.8GHz band where Wi-Fi currently runs. They are doing this to make the carriers systems and smart phones run more efficiently and because, (so they say), they can push more bandwidth through the same band. The carriers will be happy because it adds a great deal of efficiency to how they manage spectrum. Of course they say is will be a win for the consumer because they can access more data in the “free” bands. Hey, if Qualcomm says  it then it must be true, right? 

Technical report on LTE-U found here.

3GPP LTE information.

Linksys explains 2.4GHz and 5.8GHz.

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So the FCC has to determine if Wi-Fi and LTE-U (and/or LAA), can coexist. Can they, of course, but the issue here is probably not technology, it has more to do with business and politics, in my opinion. You would be given the option to buy a Wi-Fi or LTE access point for your house, wouldn’t that be cool? You know you would get LTE just because it is the latest and greatest. You would try to get it before anyone else did just to say you had it first. I wouldn’t because I am cheap and I would wait for the price to drop. But hey, that’s just me. I just gave up my iPhone 4s a few weeks ago because it worked and it was reliable.

So what is the big deal? The FCC has to approve LTE to be run in this spectrum. No big deal, right? Wrong!!!! Apparently some Wi-Fi groups see this as a threat! It could be the end of Wi-Fi as we know it. They think that the Wi-Fi civilization would end. Would it, who knows? I remember when most Wi-Fi units were in the 2.4GHz range, and many may still be there. By the way, did you know that your microwave heats up the food using the 2.4GHz band? It just uses a massive amount of power. Just something to think about next time you have a 2.4GHz Wi-Fi unit sitting next to your body. Don’t worry, the power difference is huge! Microwaves put out massive power and then bounce it around to make sure your Ramon noodles are hot. Sorry, back to the point.

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The FCC has to make a big decision. On one hand they have the carriers who pump a lot of money into the economy and who finally found a way to make real money in this band. Then you have all the Wi-Fi advocates that sell a lot of hardware to people like me who love Wi-Fi access at home. I really do. To be honest, I think I would put in a LTE box at home if it worked the same and had more bandwidth. I don’t care, I just want great speed to upload blogs like this and to watch stupid videos on YouTube and to download my music! Isn’t that what a free society is all about, great internet access? Do most people care about the pipe? The only part of the pipe they care about is the monthly price, right? 

So who is in favor of LTE-U? So far, Verizon and T-Mobile! They love the idea and they let the FCC know that it’s the greatest thing since sliced bread, (that is before we had to have sliced whole wheat bread because white bread is bad for us). I understand Verizon’s position because they want people on LTE because that is their bread and butter, they want the best performing system and they know that when people roam to Wi-Fi performance drops dramatically, making the system look bad when in reality it’s the Wi-Fi coverage. I think that T-Mobile is realizing that as well when they release Wi-Fi calling. I think that they see that Wi-Fi calling in a home with one Wi-Fi hotspot works very well but in a public place, like a train station or hotel lobby, it really sucks because of coverage and interference. I believe that with LTE-U they may be able to clean that up, but this is only speculation on my part.

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Who is against LTE-U? Comcast and Google who already deployed tons of Wi-Fi hotspots. I also see that Republic Wireless and Cablevision are against it and for good reason because they just invested tons of money in Wi-Fi hoping to make money in offloading to the carriers, but if the carriers go LTE-U, then they may build out their own systems and not use any of these people. They would have to share the band with LTE and no longer get to have Wi-Fi hotspots along with all the other Wi-Fi providers out there. Google already dog-tags_clearbackgrondwrote a letter to the FCC explaining how the carriers would look at the Wi-Fi providers like the cable companies as competitors. I don’t know about that argument because in a capitalist society competition is considered good. So is Google saying that the carriers should partner with the cable companies? Not a bad idea, but if the FCC would not let AT&T take over T-Mobile, would they allow Verizon and Comcast become solid partners or merge? Maybe, who knows, but I don’t ever see that happening. Rumor has it that Comcast is looking into buying T-Mobile, making them a competitor or the other carriers anyway.

Who is neutral? Apparently both AT&T and Sprint. AT&T has a conundrum because they deployed tons of Wi-Fi, signed Wi-Fi roaming agreements with Sprint and T-Mobile, and yet they see the benefits in LTE-U, they really do. Sprint I think has too many other things to worry about, For instance Marcelo Claure is working to create a profitable company by following Softbank’s plan, so I understand why this is not a top priority. If I were him I would let T-Mobile worry about this issue.

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How will the FCC make this decision? I think they will look at the arguments, and trust me the carriers are very powerful on capital hill with the help of PCIA and CTIA, so they have a strong edge in that department. They will look the Wi-Fi advocates and possibly listen to Comcast, who has lobbyists but they are not always popular with the Feds. Google, who is also against LTU-U has many friends in capitol hill, and they may use them if they decide to pick a fight, I really don’t know why they are fighting this but I know if they want to fight they will convince us that they are doing it for the greater good in society, that seems to be a common argument with them and I usually fall for it. Then the FCC will weigh in to see what effect this will have on future auctions, will LTE-U actually make the carriers utilize more free bands and lessen the need for licensed bands? This is the economics of the FCC . I don’t think they have anything to worry about since they just soaked the carrier for billions, which you and I will see as a slight increase in our mobile phone bills. I know they sold off assets to pay for it up front, but these carriers are smart, they will make the money back quickly after they deploy. It really feeds the economy with the deployment services (billions of dollars for RF, tower, and engineering workers) and then all of the commercials of who has better coverage, (millions for advertising companies), and plans will be on TV and on YouTube, I’m just saying.

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Something to think about, if the carriers do win and LTE-U or LAA is deployed, then the deployment teams will see income from a brand new deployment, a new market, new hardware on the scene. This will really stimulate work for the teams that previously deployed Wi-Fi or LTE. They could be called into action to engineer and install equipment for carriers. The OEMs of Wi-Fi would have a new product to build and sell. I see the economic stimulus for the field works.

Who really wins? Probably the OEMs that make Wi-Fi gear. They will sell more product. Ubiquity will make a cheap product that most people will deploy and Ruckus will make carrier grade product. Then you have all the other in between. The cable companies will probably deploy their own gear or they already have contractors doing it. The carriers will go through the lab testing phase, then through the field testing phase then finally deploy. The carriers will probably put it out to bid, lowest qualified bidder, so make sure you understand your Scope when you deploy! 

So what do you think? Is this really a big issue for you, the end-user? Or is this just a political issue? Are the carriers really trying to take over the world and starting with Wi-Fi or are they trying to help out the consumer by lowering device costs? Do you see Comcast and Google trying to save Wi-Fi as we know it or are they holding on to an old technology by refusing to change or give up their investments?  What will the FCC do? Will they weigh their decision only on technology or will they follow the political road and let the lobbyists fight it out on Capitol Hill? I guess we will see.

Stay informed!

This is something you may want to read, a letter that is signed by Alcatel-Lucent, Ericsson, Qualcomm, T-Mobile, and Verizon. Competitors working together for the common cause of supporting LTE-U! http://apps.fcc.gov/ecfs/comment/view?id=60001098662

More stories if you’re interested! 

http://www.rcrwireless.com/20150827/carriers/lte-u-fight-plus-4-more-things-to-know-today-tag4 

http://www.law360.com/articles/668282/google-at-t-out-of-tune-on-lte-u-repercussions

http://www.wsj.com/articles/cell-carriers-battle-for-wi-fi-airwaves-1440543853

http://www.eweek.com/mobile/regulatory-fight-brewing-at-fcc-over-lte-u-access-to-wifi-spectrum.html

http://www.networkworld.com/article/2941873/wireless/lte-u-is-coming-to-take-your-wi-fi-away-consumer-advocates-warn.html

http://fortune.com/2015/08/26/wifi-battle-brewing-cell-phones/

http://www.infoworld.com/article/2976474/wireless-local-area-network/carriers-want-your-wifi-lte-u.html

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LWA, LAA, LTE-U and Wi-Fi

Smartphones love bandwidth! Any argument? Smartphones want more bandwidth, actually, the users love the bandwidth, the phone just want to keep up and avoid having the user throw it on the floor. Am I right? Did you ever sit there a scream at your phone because it did not perform well? Hey, don’t get mad, try to be understanding that the networks will get better. Maybe they can tap off the free spectrum until they get better.

Fist off the carrier wants to keep the customer on their system. licensed carrier, as long as they can to eat up the data the customer pays for every month. But the customer complaints and the loading is getting crazy so now they see they need to get a solution that includes Wi-Fi. 

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So the OEMs had to figure out a way to get LTE and Wi-Fi to play nice together. Really it was Qualcomm and Ericsson who came up with the plan, and they have several different ways to do it. Qualcomm figured out that if you could put LTE in a license free environment then it would play nice with LTE. The OEMs like the thought of carrier aggregation where they can can make multiple carriers look like one, more or less, in the UE device. This makes the sharing much more efficient in this day of bandwidth constraints.  Whether you think it’s good or bad, let’s look over the different options.

By the way, most of these will likely be used in a small cell environment, usually inside a building or a stadium where the heaviest data usage happens. I would expect this to be used out on the street unless it’s like a city street with outside seating. Solving the bandwidth crisis can be done in more ways than just adding spectrum. It’s just that some carrier don’t think densifying, (densification), the network is worth the money but it may be a great way to solve the spectrum crisis. It seems like the larger carriers get it and they already added Macro, oDAS, and small cells to make this happen. So when you read that a carrier is going to run out of spectrum, look at the system end to end, open up your eyes! 

For the sake of this article, I am going to talk about LTE on the carrier. I think that 3G will go away within the next 3 years in the USA if certain carriers can get off their bums and start building LTE in time for 5G to be released! 

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Wi-Fi boost – this is there the Wi-Fi provides the bulk of the downlink and the LTE carrier provides the bulk of the upload while providing little download to clean up the spectrum. Pros are if the Wi-Fi is clean you can use all the bandwidth to carry data, for instance if you are in your home with no interference and the kids aren’t streaming music. The con is if you are competing for bandwidth or the backhaul stinks or if there is interference on the Wi-Fi, then there are issues.  This works with your existing Wi-Fi, it’s just an upgrade the carrier has to do on their system and a software upgrade in your Smartphone. Actually, this is very similar to what they do today with the Wi-Fi handoff. There have been many issues with handing off from Wi-Fi to the carrier and back again, but it is getting better than ever with everything except voice. I am sure someday that will be solved as well. 

LWA – LTE Wi-Fi Aggregation – so here is where it is the same as above but the LTE adds a carrier for download, hence the aggregation. This will need the carrier to upgrade the small cell but the bandwidth is increased even more to the device. This may require an upgrade to the Wi-Fi AP. LWA likes to have the Wi-Fi and LTE together, at this time, for synchronization purposes. This will change as evolution happens.  I believe this would need to be a new device for the end-user but maybe a firmware upgrade will do it, I am not clear on this right now. An overview here. 

LTE-U – this is literally running the LTE format in the Wi-Fi spectrum. Why is this great when we already have Wi-Fi? It makes the handoff to the LTE carrier much more efficient for the RAN. This is what the carriers like because it ties into the carrier aggregation plans that they already have and the UE will see it, in theory, as another LTE carrier, not as a different technology. It is much simpler to do in the UE device. 

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LAA – Licenses Assisted Access works with LTE-U, LTE Unlicensed. This is not your father’s Wi-Fi, it is something new altogether that must learn to coexist with Wi-Fi, and so it is not Wi-Fi at all. It is literally LTE transmitted in a license free band, could be in sub 6GHz in the USA. In theory, it could have 2 to 5 times the throughput of Wi-Fi along with better coverage. This is all new equipment. Truly a Greenfield deployment. This would be a new user device, (new chipset). A good explanation here. 

MuLTEfire – which is Qualcomm’s new offering where LTE could be completely unlicensed, let’s say something like 3.5GHz, but could also work with the licensed band. Qualcomm is always thinking about how to make better wireless chips. They know they need to build in the WOW factor. I have to admit, I said wow! I see great possibilities with new bands that are lightly licensed because they could open up new markets for backhaul and other last mile services. Remember that 5G is moving ahead and will be here in 5 years or less, Probably arriving around 2020.

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I hope that helps you figure out what is going on out there. This is moving ahead very quickly but the carriers will test it before releasing it. That doesn’t mean there won’t be bugs but they will make sure it doesn’t affect their systems.

Be smart, be safe, and pay attention!

I am putting a small cell handbook together, it should be out soon. It will be geared towards deployment but a good reference overall. It will have most of what I post but also some extra notes is it.  If your interested, feel free to sign up for my newsletter below. 

official logoPlease support hurt climbers and their families by donating to the Hubble Foundation. Show you care for people in wireless. Not everyone has a safe job in deployments. The Hubble Foundation helps support the people who get hurt building the wireless systems that the world relies on.

 

Wi-Fi, LTE, LTE-U, and Aggregation

That’s right, everyone was thinking that LTE and Wi-Fi would compete against each other for center stage in deployments. I know that the carriers favor licensed bands but the customer want bandwidth, they don’t care how they get it. They don’t want to pay too much for the connection either. So here is there the love story begins. They have a common bond, bandwidth for the user. This is something that anyone with a Smartphone loves, bandwidth!

I am hoping to get this out at a time when T-Mobile is making the push for VoWiFi along with the VoLTE. They really seem to moving ahead at full steam with this and I am impressed. Kudos to the OEMs working with them which I think is Ericsson, Nokia, and Cisco. I am sure there are more involved but the way this is rolling out in the urban areas is really impressive! Verizon Wireless has the capability to do VoLTE and it works well. I think the end game is to sunset the 3G network. Not many people are willing to pay more for VoLTE. Sure, it may sound better, but would you pay to sound better? I don’t think that most people would. I think that the real goal is to shut down the 3G system and save all that money. That is my opinion.

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I congratulate T-Mobile for pushing the envelope with Voice over Wi-Fi, (VoWiFi). They are realizing how hard it is but they did it and it works! Who knew LTE would push the unification of Wi-Fi bands and the licensed bands even closer. That VoWiFi would be the rage after VoLTE. Actually, in Wade’s World, I see the cable companies pushing VoWiFi because they have it deployed everywhere. What a concept! I can’t wait until we see Wi-Fi only smart phones. We actually have Wi-Fi only tablets that can use apps, like Skype, to make calls over Wi-Fi. This was going to be a solution early on for the carriers with LTE, to have an app make the call, but there were too many issues, especially if there is an emergency, but I don’t know much more about why it didn’t succeed.

This was very hard to research, at least for me, it just gets so confusing and I have yet to find one document that can really explain all of this without crossing lines and adding confusion. Even the Mobile Broadband Evolutions document found here didn’t add much clarity for me. I read this and I think to myself that I used to be an engineer, now I can’t even spell E-N-G-I-N-E-E-R without getting a headache.

If you’re wondering why this is going to happen, then you might not realize that the data demands of the public are crazy! Everyone is using more and more data on their devices. Why shouldn’t they? I mean there was a day when we had to “plug-in” to do anything. There was a day when the only reason to get on a computer was to work. Now, look at all the online communities and all the apps and Facebook. It’s a crazy world full of data demands that will only get worse as people want to watch more and more streaming video on their devices. It’s already happening! Remember when we thought gaming would sink the network, well, let’s look at video. It’s very demanding but only the tip of the iceberg!

So the OEMs had to figure out a way to get LTE and Wi-Fi to play nice together. Really it was Qualcomm who came up with the plan, (with some help from Ericsson), and they have several different ways to do it. Whether you think it’s good or bad, let’s look over the different options.

By the way, most of these will likely be used in a small cell environment, usually inside a building or a stadium where the heaviest data usage happens. I would expect this to be used out on the street unless it’s like a city street with outside seating. This really covers the licensed band sharing the load with the unlicensed band. They will be working together. Now remember that the backhaul is still an issue, so if the Wi-Fi and the carrier share the backhaul then there is a new bottleneck that could constrain data. Just keep that in the back of your mind when reading this.

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Wi-Fi offloading – this is how it is currently being done, basically you offload the data to the Wi-Fi if you have coverage. If you make a call or if there is no readily available Wi-Fi, then you use the carrier’s bands.

Wireless Unified Networks or Wi-Fi Integration – Think of Wi-Fi as it is now just working with LTE as a partner. Alcatel-Lucent calls this Wi-Fi boost and Cellular boost. Wi-Fi could provide the bulk of the downlink and the LTE carrier provides the bulk of the upload while providing little download to clean up the spectrum. This would require no change to Wi-Fi as we know it today. Pros are if the Wi-Fi is clean you can use all the bandwidth to carry data, for instance if you are in your home with no interference and the kids aren’t streaming video. The con is if you are competing for bandwidth or the backhaul stinks or if there is interference on the Wi-Fi, then there are issues.  This works with your existing Wi-Fi, it’s just an upgrade the carrier has to do on their system and a software upgrade in your Smartphone. This would be up to the carrier to make the changes on their network, the way I understand it.

LWA – LTE & Wi-Fi Aggregation – so here is where it is the similar to the above but the LTE adds a carrier for download, hence the aggregation. This will need the carrier to upgrade the small cell but the bandwidth is increased even more to the device. This may require an upgrade to the Wi-Fi AP. LWA likes to have the Wi-Fi and LTE together, at this time, for synchronization purposes. This will change as evolution happens.  I believe this would need to be a new or upgraded device for the end-user, (maybe a firmware upgrade will do it), I am not clear on this right now. Pros are that the speeds should be great and that the Wi-Fi can remain the same. Cons are that the UE needs to be upgraded or changed out. This is being trialed as we speak by carriers and OEMs.

LTE-U – LTE Unlicensed – This is going to work on its own or with LAA, so I thought I would give a brief overview. This works in the 5.8GHz unlicensed band. You know, where Wi-Fi resides. To be clear, it ain’t Wi-Fi but the LTE protocol that must learn to coexist with Wi-Fi. It is literally LTE transmitted in a license free band, probably in the 5.8GHz band in the USA. In theory, it could have 2 to 5 times the throughput of Wi-Fi along with better coverage. The Wi-Fi advocates are worried about interference, which I think is funny because Wi-Fi coverage and interference causing quality issues, so seriously, this is the argument? I know it has listen before talk, but anyone who worked on  Wi-Fi and sees about 8 other hotspots in the same area has to realize that interference is there whether you admit it or not. Did you ever try to connect in a train station or airport? Look at all the hotspots on your smart phone and just think that they are all trying to coexist in that one area. To me the one company that I know of that made a great inroad in the problem is Ruckus with their smart antenna technology, pretty cool that they control the signal based on interference. Ruckus has more information here.

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LAALicensed Assisted Access works with LTE-U, LTE Unlicensed. This is all new equipment, so the investment is in hardware as well as software. Truly a Greenfield deployment, the way I see it anyway. The Wi-Fi access point would be replaced with the LTE-U access point, therefore no Wi-Fi, just LTE in unlicensed bands. This would require a new user device, (new chipset). There are also many issues with how it would co-exist with Wi-Fi.  Ericsson has an entire presentation here.  The theory is that with carrier aggregation the uplinks and downlinks would all work together in sharing the load. This way you appear to have an awesome pipe, so much data passing through multiple bands that all appear to be one pipe. WOW!

MuLTEfire – which is Qualcomm’s new offering where LTE could be completely unlicensed, but could also work with the licensed band, I really don’t know. It’s very new. Qualcomm is always thinking about how to make better wireless chips. They know they need to build in the WOW factor. I have to admit, I said wow! I see great possibilities with new bands that are lightly licensed because they could open up new markets for backhaul and other last mile services. Remember that 5G is moving ahead and will be here in 5 years or less, Probably arriving around 2020 in time for 5G.

At some point Qualcomm is going to have to pick one or two, but it appears they have all their bases covered, I mean how many more options will they create? Will they promote all of these? I have no idea but Dr Paul Jacobs at Qualcomm probably has a pretty good plan.

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I am no expert and this is something that takes some more research. I am learning so much about bringing it all together. The one thing that is really going to help is carrier aggregation. The carriers are trying to make the spectrum they have become more efficient. That is also the theory around densification, it has to add so much value and when spectrum costs billions, yes billions, then you need to figure out how to get the biggest bang for each Mega hertz.

So as you can imagine there are Wi-Fi groups who are not happy about this, I mean after all, Wi-Fi has been around forever and they are constantly updating the Wi-Fi protocol to make it faster and more efficient. I am impressed with how they constantly improve what they have. They have done all they could to make it better for the carriers. They probably worry that LTE-U may replace it. I would think that there is so much Wi-Fi out there that this probably won’t happen. The way I see it, if Verizon Wireless has their way they will be using LTE-U all over so they can improve the customer experience without buying any more bandwidth than they need to.

I hope that helps you figure out what is going on out there. This is moving ahead very quickly but the carriers will test it before releasing it. That doesn’t mean there won’t be bugs but they will make sure it doesn’t affect their systems.  To gain more information go to http://blog.3g4g.co.uk/2014/07/la-lte-and-laa.html for great input on this subject. Nokia has more information. You can download Nokia’s presentation here. Another good link, http://www.fiercewireless.com/tech/story/4-standards-cooking-lte-unlicensed-fcc-tech-chief-asks-more-details-verizon/2015-08-05?utm_medium=nl&utm_source=internal.

Be smart, be safe, and pay attention!

Have more to add, let me know.

I am putting a small cell handbook together, it should be out soon. It will be geared towards deployment but a good reference overall. It will have most of what I post but also some extra notes is it.  If your interested, feel free to sign up for my newsletter below. 

official logoPlease support hurt climbers and their families by donating to the Hubble Foundation. Show you care for people in wireless. Not everyone has a safe job in deployments. The Hubble Foundation helps support the people who get hurt building the wireless systems that the world relies on.