Cell networks' LTE-U will kill your Wi-Fi, say digital rights bods

Telcos: No, sigh, it won't ruin your home network

Wireless carriers are once again looking to reassure the American people after more objections were raised against the planned LTE-U broadband network.

The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) has joined the likes of Google and the NCTA (US National Cable & Telecommunications Association) in asking the US's comms watchdog to take a long, hard look at the proposed unlicensed spectrum band.

The worry, say the EFF and others, is that LTE-U will interfere with Wi-Fi networks and other consumer wireless devices. Among the possible issues cited are the absence of a "listen-before-talk" mandate that would prevent devices from interfering with one another when transmitting data.

"Wi-Fi devices aren't equipped to recognize the presence of an LTE-U device and don't know that they should only transmit when the LTE-U device has scheduled itself to remain silent," the EFF said.

"Since the LTE-U device doesn't listen for silence before it starts to transmit, any Wi-Fi device that starts transmitting just before the LTE-U device comes on will get interrupted and drowned out. Depending on how the Wi-Fi and LTE-U devices are configured, this can result in a serious loss of bandwidth for Wi-Fi devices."

The mobile carriers and hardware vendors who are backing LTE-U say there is nothing to worry about, and that the devices that would use unlicensed band will indeed play nice with nearby wireless networks.

Among those backers is Qualcomm, who maintains that Wi-Fi has nothing to fear from LTE-U.

"We are working with all of our colleagues in the Wi-Fi community – of which Qualcomm is a part – to answer questions, address issues, ease concerns, and try to reach consensus," Qualcomm senior vice president of government affairs Dean Brenner said.

"In addition, Qualcomm and the LTE-U Forum have provided a mountain of test data to the FCC that shows LTE-U will not have any adverse impact on Wi-Fi. That test data is publicly available for everyone to review."

Meanwhile, the Wi-Fi Alliance said that it was to forge a truce to make sure the Wi-Fi and LTE-U camps will work together. The group said it wants to build a set of co-existence guidelines that would allow the two technologies to work without any need for government intervention.

"Wi-Fi has been a model of good unlicensed spectrum stewardship, and we expect similar etiquette from all technologies sharing that spectrum," Wi-Fi Alliance president Edgar Figueroa said of the plan.

"Cooperation among a broad cross-section of industry provides the best opportunity to deliver a viable solution for fair coexistence." ®

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