The US Federal Communications Commission (FCC) authorised the use of LTE-U devices in the 5GHz band, heralding the move as a “significant advance in wireless innovation and big win for wireless consumers”.
Under the new regulation, mobile operators will be able to tap into under-utilised spectrum in the 5GHz band to increase mobile data capacity. The frequency is currently mostly used by Wi-Fi providers.
The move follows a three-year phase of industry testing with a range of operators and vendors to assess the viability of, and rules around, cellular and Wi-Fi providers sharing the band.
Immediately after the announcement by recently-appointed FCC chairman Ajit Pai (pictured), T-Mobile US revealed it would begin using unlicenced spectrum to increase capacity on its LTE network from Spring 2017.
The company added the availability of LTE-U would allow it to launch gigabit LTE in a greater number of locations.
Announcing the FCC’s decision, Pai said: “This is a significant advance in wireless innovation and a big win for wireless consumers.
“LTE-U allows wireless providers to deliver mobile data traffic using unlicensed spectrum while sharing the road, so to speak, with Wi-Fi.
“This is a great deal for wireless consumers, too. It means they get to enjoy the best of both worlds: a more robust, seamless experience when their devices are using cellular networks and the continued enjoyment of Wi-Fi, one of the most creative uses of spectrum in history.”