New Federal Communications Commission (FCC) chairman Ajit Pai has confirmed that the watchdog has taken steps to authorise LTE-Unlicensed (LTE-U) devices in the 5GHz band. Mr Pai commented: ‘LTE-U allows wireless providers to deliver mobile data traffic using unlicensed spectrum while sharing the road, so to speak, with Wi-Fi. The excellent staff of the FCC’s Office of Engineering and Technology has certified that the LTE-U devices being approved today are in compliance with FCC rules. And voluntary industry testing has demonstrated that both these devices and Wi-Fi operations can co-exist in the 5GHz band. This heralds a technical breakthrough in the many shared uses of this spectrum.’
Following the ruling, T-Mobile US immediately unveiled its own LTE-U launch plans, confirming that it expects to offer the technology on a commercial basis from this spring, tapping into an ‘underutilised’ 20MHz block of 5GHz spectrum. Since December 2016 T-Mobile has been testing LTE-U equipment as part of its early field trials, noting that gear from its strategic partners Ericsson and Nokia has now been certified for use by the FCC. T-Mobile expects to use LTE-U spectrum to help deliver its forthcoming Gigabit LTE service.