Wi-Fi, LTE-U enter new phase of coexistence debate

The long-running contretemps between the supporters of LTE-U and regular Wi-Fi, over the idea of the two wireless standards co-existing on the same frequencies, has moved into a new phase, as test plan parameters are expected to be rolled out at Wednesday’s coexistence workshop in San Jose.

The workshop is a meeting of interested stakeholders from both parties. The LTE-U camp, primarily made up of Qualcomm, Ericsson and the major U.S. wireless telecoms, has long insisted that LTE-U technology will not interfere with existing Wi-Fi networks, despite using the same frequencies. Skeptics, which include the cable industry and many of the country’s biggest tech companies, including Google and Microsoft, are worried that the rosy coexistence picture presented by LTE-U’s backers is unrealistic.

+ALSO ON NETWORK WORLD: LTE-U’s cold war may be thawing, as field testing commences ahead of summit + LTE-U: A quick explainer

A statement issued Tuesday by WifiForward, an umbrella group for the skeptical companies, said that a final test plan for LTE-U should be “finalized within the coming weeks,” and notes that the expected final test plan represents a compromise for both parties.

“Neither side received its preferred outcome,” the group said. “In fact, half of all Wi-Fi hotspots will remain unprotected by the test, a significant challenge for the Wi-Fi community and consumers moving forward.”

Limited field testing has been underway since January with T-Mobile and Verizon, but the creation of a finalized test plan parameter will push testing into the public eye. Both the carriers and the Wi-Fi companies argue that their own internal lab tests demonstrate the validity of their position, but each says that the other side’s testing is invalid for various reasons.

Rob Alderfer, a president of technology policy for cable industry research group CableLabs, called the compromise plan “pragmatic,” and said that it will provide meaningful data on the crucially important question of whether LTE-U and Wi-Fi can coexist in the same airwaves.

“Reliable coexistence information is needed to ensure fact-based decisions on this important issue,” he said in a statement provided to Network World. “Given the substantial time and effort devoted to reaching this compromise plan, we support moving forward with testing as soon as possible.”

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