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 LTE unlicensed and Wi-Fi: moving beyond coexistence

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Unlicensed spectrum is hugely valuable, and mobile operators are increasingly eager to leverage it. They started with Wi-Fi offload, and now they are moving to LTE unlicensed and new ways to integrate Wi-Fi in their networks (carrier Wi-Fi, LWA).
This Senza Fili report, “LTE unlicensed and Wi-Fi: moving beyond coexistence” explores the opportunities that LTE unlicensed offers to mobile operators and how the technology can moving into the 5 GHz band where Wi-Fi dominates and has been an astounding success.

Is the performance – and business case – of LTE unlicensed sufficiently better that mobile operators will be willing to roll out LTE unlicensed even though it will require new mobile devices? And what will the 5 GHz ecosystem, dominated by Wi-Fi users, enterprise, and service providers, will accept as fair coexistence from the LTE unlicensed proponents? 
The report presents an overview of LTE unlicensed and how it can coexist with Wi-Fi. We discuss central issues such as performance, standardization, business models, and deployment costs. The debate on LTE unlicensed is a heated one in which parties have often taken antagonistic views. In the interviews in this report, we have tried to present multiple perspectives from players deeply involved in the Wi-Fi and LTE ecosystems, and discuss how to best develop a coexistence regimen for LTE unlicensed that expands the overall use of the unlicensed spectrum in the 5 GHz band and benefits all the stakeholders.

Interviews included in the report 
  • Alcatel-Lucent
  • InterDigital
  • Qualcomm Technologies
  • Ruckus Wireless
  • Tele2
  • Wi-Fi Alliance
  • XCellAir

Topics covered

  • Growing value and usage of unlicensed spectrum
  • Two versions of LTE unlicensed: LTE-U and LAA-LTE
  • The commitment to fair coexistence
  • LTE unlicensed strengths
  • Wi Fi strengths
  • LTE unlicensed or Wi Fi?
  • Listen before talk does not come for free
  • LTE and Wi-Fi aggregation (LWA) as an alternative
  • Business case

Table of contents
  • Introduction. Why LTE unlicensed?
  • Terminology. LTE unlicensed, LTE-U, LAA-LTE and more
  • LTE unlicensed integration with LTE licensed. A special case of carrier aggregation
  • The 5 GHz unlicensed band. What’s so special about it?
  • Why do we need listen before talk (LBT)? Fair coexistence is a requirement for success, not an option
  • LTE-U, ahead of inclusion of LBT in 3GPP standards. The solution for operators ready to deploy
  • The LAA-LTE standardization process in 3GPP. Enshrining fairness in the standards
  • Wi-Fi or LTE unlicensed in small-cell deployments? A look at the tradeoffs
  • Quantifying the LTE unlicensed performance benefits. The challenges in generalizing simulation and trial results
  • One step further with LWA. Alternative or complement?
  • Is LTE unlicensed worth the investment? A look at the business case

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