Plans to operate LTE networks in the unlicensed 5GHz band got a good airing at this year’s Mobile World Congress, but the Wi-Fi Alliance continued to reiterate its warning that early deployments of the technology entail as much risk as opportunity.
Speaking to Mobile World Live, Edgar Figueroa, the president and CEO of the Wi-Fi Alliance, said standardisation work for LTE-Unlicensed (LTE-U) or LTE-LAA (licensed assisted access) is still at a nascent stage, although he noted that the technology represents an opportunity for both the Wi-Fi and mobile camps to work on co-existence in the unlicensed bands.
The Wi-Fi Alliance has stressed that there is a risk that LAA, and especially pre-standard systems deployed ahead of coexistence work being done in the industry, will negatively impact billions of Wi-Fi users who rely on 5GHz for networking and device connectivity.
Figueroa noted that around 1 billion Wi-Fi devices on the 5GHz band were shipped in 2014, while total Wi-Fi device shipments reached 2.5 billion.
The 3GPP is already carrying out work on LTE-U; Figueroa said discussions between the mobile technology standards body and the Wi-Fi Alliance have already begun. “We are poised to have good discussions,” he added.
The Wi-Fi Alliance said it is generally agreed in principle that fair sharing of the unlicensed spectrum band is required, but emphasises that there needs to be further work from all parties to address this risk in practice.
Figueroa also noted that Wi-Fi in general is of growing importance to mobile network operators, and not just for offloading data. He said we are “at the dawn” of Wi-Fi and mobile networks being integrated, with operators also now having access to a list of requirements that enables them to provide carrier-grade Wi-Fi services.