Regulatory Fight Brewing at FCC Over LTE-U Access to WiFi Spectrum
The WiFi Alliance, which is the standards body for WiFi, meanwhile, is demanding that the FCC put any approval of LTE-U products on hold until the Alliance can set its own standards, do its own testing and issue its own approvals. But note that LTE-U isn't WiFi, so it's not clear why the alliance claims the right to do standards testing and development. It's no more surprising that the two mobile carriers that are leading the effort toward adoption of LTE-U; Verizon Wireless and T-Mobile don't agree with the WiFi Alliance. T-Mobile, which states in its response that it plans to start testing LTE-U in 2016, suggests that the technical claims of the WiFi Alliance are based on unreasonable assumptions. Having looked over the various charts that the NCTA presents, I think T-Mobile has a point. But Verizon is making an even stronger case in its response to the WiFi Alliance. Using the logic presented by the Alliance, any device operating in any part of the spectrum currently being used by WiFi, would be required to be approved by the Alliance. This would include, using the Alliance's own points, everything from those microwave ovens to your Bluetooth headset. The problem is the idea behind an unlicensed spectrum that allows a wide variety of devices to operate is just that—it's unlicensed so that a variety of devices can operate. "It would turn the idea of permission-less innovation on its head," said Verizon vice president for federal regulatory affairs Patrick Welsh."We started working with the WiFi community when we released our LTE-U specification," Welsh said. “We asked the community to peer review it. Since March, we've had a series of meetings with various unlicensed stakeholders. They have legitimate questions, we want to make sure we've heard their concerns." While the arguments over LTE-U are sure to continue for some time, and while there are some legitimate questions about how this extra traffic will affect WiFi, it would seem that some groups, notably the WiFi Alliance, are in reality trying to assert their positions as standards groups to the point that they are striving to become approval authorities. From its own words it seems the WiFi Alliance is seeking authority to approve any use of what is currently unlicensed and free to anyone or any company to use. One wonders when they'll start going after the existing licensed users that also share this spectrum who are supposed to be protected from interference from the WiFi Alliance's constituents—the great mass of WiFi device users.
Welsh, who was speaking from the Qualcomm labs in San Diego, where LTE-U is undergoing a series of tests, said that the LTE-U group is working with other users of unlicensed spectrum to make sure everyone can coexist.