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LTE-WiFi Debate Exposes Spectrum Land Grab

Cellular operators don't want WiFi to behave more like LTE
5/11/2015 02:43 AM EDT
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alex_m1
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Re: How many LTE small cells?
alex_m1   5/12/2015 1:19:39 PM
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@dave:

>> But everything I've heard from the telcos, including AT&T


What you hear from telcos is mainly about the paid model. But what are the opportunities for free LTE with cheap cells and user supplied, "free" backhaul ? maybe with the right opportunities we'll see lte/wifi combined hotsots everywhere ?

 

daveburstein
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How many LTE small cells?
daveburstein   5/12/2015 7:35:42 AM
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LTE small cells - as femtocells - can be very inexpensive. That's a reasonable alternative to extend home coverage, for example. But everything I've heard from the telcos, including AT&T, suggests there will far fewer LTE small cells than WiFi. Backhaul is just too expensive.

Which means that WiFi will deliver far more capacity in most places. The "LTE is more efficient per cell" is a red herring unless and until telcos are prepared to match the 10's of millions of available Wi-Fi points. (My opinion. Qualcoom and others differ.) 

alex_m1
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Re: A little further and thanks
alex_m1   5/12/2015 7:27:28 AM
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@Dave, i know currently LTE small cells are quite expensive - around $2.3K . But assuming people do decide to deploye them in large quantities similar to wifi, is there a chance that LTE-U unlicensed small cells's prices will go down to reasonable prices ?


The other question is of course - assuming prices will be low enough and the tech is better than wifi(mostly coverage wise), will people deploy LTE-U cells ? I would guess maybe, since some people have hose coverage problems with wifi.

junko.yoshida
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Re: Just the beginning
junko.yoshida   5/11/2015 12:08:59 PM
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Indeed, Rick. But the future of LTE-U is just around the corner. How we deal with the issue on hand may affect the coming 5G era.

In either way, not an easy problem to solve.

rick merritt
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Just the beginning
rick merritt   5/11/2015 11:59:23 AM
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This is just the warm up for the main event. Wait until 5G when the lines will be thoroughly blurred between what is an LTE and what is a WiFi service and who are the servicie providers.

junko.yoshida
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Re: A little further and thanks
junko.yoshida   5/11/2015 8:33:00 AM
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@daveburstein, thanks for sharing additional analysis and information here. I didn't know FCC is a member of 3GPP. I do agree that 3GPP becoming a "multi-stakeholder" is a good idea.

I see so many different layers to this story.

Once again, dave, thank you for your help!

daveburstein
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A little further and thanks
daveburstein   5/11/2015 3:31:10 AM
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Junko

I've been reading EE Times for decades and am flattered to be included in your story, which is on target. The telcos are considering 40 and 80 MHz channels that could easily swallow half or more of the Wi-Fi spectrum. If Wi-Fi is important, that's a mistake to allow.

The U.S. government is a member of 3GPP where this standard is being debated. Advocates are trying to rush it through even though there is not a single independent test or field trial. Senior technologists including a Stanford Professor and a second Marconi fellow are skeptical of the lab tests, which were conducted by Qualcomm. Qualcomm looks to collect $billions in royalties so is not independent.

The U.S. government delegate can and should refuse consensus in 3GPP until we have reliable data. We would be supported, I believe, by Microsoft, Broadcom and the cable industry. They have all filed objections with the FCC. This would freeze the process, the right thing for now.

The U.S. should also insist that 3GPP become a "multi-stakeholder" body with civil society and public participation. Both the U.S. and the EU have a strong position in favor of "multi-stakeholder" rules for the Internet. The engineers at 3GPP are excellent and have done a great job on the technical issues. But the use of Wi-Fi/unlicensed spectrum is not just a technical issue. It affects $many billions of free service/potential telco revenues. The telcos and their suppliers dominate 3GPP and on issue like this need public input as well.

Jag and Rupert, analysts I respect, make some important points. I agree with both of them that independent wireless carriers will be hard to make profitable and hence are likely to be small and not massive competition to the telcos. (Every bit of competition helps,of course.)

I do believe Wi-Fi can be used to divert much more traffic from the telcos and that can cripple their revenue model. In most of Manhattan I can connect my mobile phone to Time Warner Wi-Fi via hundreds of thousands of home and office gateways. I can then visit the web or make Skype/Vonage calls without paying my mobile carrier. That's a huge bandwidth savings but an extreme threat to the telcos.

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Jag is also right that individual LTE cells are more efficient than individual Wi-Fi cells, but that doesn't mean that LTE uses the spectrum more efficiently. There are 14M public Wi-Fi hotspots, the vast majority of them off home or office gateways. If I check WiFi where I am, I see over 20 possible connections. Telco Wo-Fo plans are in the tens of thousands, not the millions. Almost everywhere in most cities, there will be far more home/office gateways then the telcos could ever deploy. The backhaul costs would kill them if they tried. 

That means turning on the second SSID - on a purely coluntary basis - will almost always be more efficient than using the same spectrum for LTE. 

Wi-Fi efficiency can and should be improved, both Marty Cooper and Arogyaswami Pualraj said at a Marconi webinar. The contention schemes must be made more efficient. That's why any standards for using LTE in the same bands needs to be very carefully designed. Not interfering with older Wi-Fi's, all they've tested, is completely inadequate. Sensible rules for avoiding conflict between the different protocols would be designed to allow the well-recognized improvements coming in Wi-Fi.

Whether the telcos take half or more of the Wi-Fi spectrum is the most important Internet technical issue currently pending. Thank you for the continuing reporting.

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