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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 strives to present 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.

This report also includes in depth interviews with Tele 2, Ooredo, Qualcomm, Ruckus Wireless, XcellAir, InterDigital, Wi-FI Alliance, and Alcatel-Lucent.