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September 16, 2016

Is Your Service Provider Messing with your Wi-Fi?

Oh Yeah, Wi-Fi. That sad spectrum solution that makes it so your wireless service provider doesn’t have to admit their network can’t handle user demand.

The discussion of LTE unlicensed spectrum has taken many turns with the focus currently on the 5 Gigahertz spectrum that is also used by Wi-Fi.

The Wi-Fi Alliance is supposed to come out with a test plan this week to look at ways to avoid interference and enable dual services. The Wi-Fi Alliance has been a powerhouse of marketing and standards bearer. If you want to buy any Wi-Fi product the Wi-Fi Logo is a testament to it’s compliance to the IEEE standards.

From the perspective of the Wi-Fi Alliance 5GHZ has been an ideal spectrum and 802.11ac provides great through put for 4K video and other home uses.

The LTE-U Forum after writing their specifications has now been largely advocated by individual members including Qualcomm and T-Mobile. The LTE-U would still have a control channel that was within the carriers licensed spectrum, but the payload would be on the unlicensed 5Ghz.

In theory, if the risk of interference can be overcome, the spectrum will provide better access methods for smart phone indoor home use. It can also represent a unified home automation offering by service providers.

Assuming the test plan is sound, where is the controversy?

The answer may be found in this quote.

“Wi-Fi Alliance has been successfully leading a multi-industry effort to develop a Coexistence Test Plan, and while the process has been challenging, Wi-Fi Alliance has delivered on an aggressive timeline that is nearly twice as fast as one of our own Wi-Fi CERTIFIED programs,” said Kevin Robinson, VP, Marketing , Wi-Fi Alliance, in a statement. “Industry stakeholders agreed that development of a Coexistence Test Plan, which is used to conduct coexistence testing of all LTE-U devices, is the appropriate way for industry to ensure Wi-Fi and LTE-U device coexistence. The expectation is for all LTE-U vendors to test their devices using the finalized Coexistence Test Plan, and that continues to be our goal.”

That quote seems to indicate that the Wi-Fi Alliance wants to be the certification process for LTE-U solutions.

From the wireless industry’s perspective, they have their own standards bodies and compliance testing. So after the tests are developed, the cellular industry wants to part ways from the Wi-Fi Alliance and not yield to them.

In some ways this is a marketing battle and maybe if LTE-U gateways are sold off the shelf, the Wi-Fi Alliance logo maybe compelling.

However for today, I can see why it seems redundant and unnecessary.

Edited by Ken Briodagh

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