Qualcomm up in arms over LTE-U testing framework

angry cell towers

The announcement this week of a final testing protocol aimed at discovering, once and for all, whether LTE-U technology can coexist peacefully with existing Wi-Fi networks has the LTE-U camp up in arms, as Qualcomm issued a thunderous denunciation of the Wi-Fi Alliance’s framework.

The plan, said Qualcomm senior vice president for government affairs Dean Brenner, is heavily biased against LTE-U and offers no real opportunity to demonstrate the technology’s ability to work harmoniously alongside Wi-Fi networks.

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“We submitted a compromise proposal which the Wi-Fi Alliance rejected in its entirety and instead issued this plan, which has the clear purpose of trying to keep the benefits of LTE-U away from consumers and off the unlicensed spectrum, which is supposed to be for all of us,” Brenner said in a statement.

Specifically, the statement said, the criteria for successful testing under the plan would require LTE-U to play much more nicely with Wi-Fi than Wi-Fi would play with LTE-U, meaning that the deck is stacked against the new technology already. The statement also argued that the standard is overly broad and presupposes unrealistic conditions under which both technologies must operate.

Brenner urged the FCC to “disregard” the testing standards put forth by the Wi-Fi alliance.

“[T]he watchword for unlicensed spectrum is supposed to be permission-less innovation, not incumbent protection,” Brenner said.

Qualcomm is the creator and main backer of LTE-U technology, which seeks to use the same unlicensed but heavily trafficked frequencies as Wi-Fi to move carrier traffic to subscribers. Qualcomm and the big four U.S. mobile carriers have long insisted that LTE-U plays nicely with Wi-Fi networks, but skeptics in the cable industry and among the ranks of the country’s foremost tech companies (including Google and Microsoft) insist that the technology creates a real risk of interfering with existing Wi-Fi.

Today’s statement appears to quash the hopes of groups like WifiForward, a corporate coalition skeptical of LTE-U, which praised the proposed testing protocol earlier in the week.

“We hope that no party will seek to endlessly relitigate the Wi-Fi Alliance's compromise plan and cause delay,” that group said in its own statement.

Qualcomm’s reference to the FCC could raise concerns that the government agency will have to step in and take a more active role in settling the dispute – a step that FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler has indicated that he is hesitant to take, but also has never ruled out.

Copyright © 2016 IDG Communications, Inc.

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