LTE-unlicensed: Augmenting Mobile Data Capacity, But Coexistence Needs Consideration (2014)

By Bernie McKibben, Kyung Mun, Rob Alderfer, Cable Television Laboratories, Inc.

Cable Operators (MSOs) are exploring new service opportunities based on wireless voice and data. There have been several interesting options proposed from wholesale small cell backhaul for licensed mobile operators to retail mobile services such as Wi-Fi First MVNO to widely deployed Wi-Fi for broadband services or widely deployed LTE neighborhood small cells in homes similar to community Wi-Fi. An interesting opportunity with significant strategic implications is emerging based on a nascent LTE technology. Key players in the mobile ecosystem have recently put forth a set of proposals to the 3GPP standards body to enable LTE in unlicensed spectrum bands to effectively aggregate licensed and unlicensed spectrum use under a single radio technology ("LTE-Unlicensed" or LTE-U). This report highlights three different modes of operation of LTE-U and its likely deployment scenario in small cells. The report suggests potential opportunities that LTE-U may afford to cable operators and highlights challenges that lie ahead, mainly the ability of LTE to equitably coexist with Wi-Fi and other technologies in unlicensed spectrum. Timing of likely implementation for standardized and pre-standard releases are explored, and technical differences between LTE and Wi-Fi are detailed to highlight the further development of LTE-U that is required to enable coexistence necessary for continued open innovation in unlicensed spectrum.

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