A new technology is set to disrupt the mobile data landscape this spring, and many cell service carriers plan to support it. Dubbed LTE-U, short for LTE-Unlicensed, it is a variation on the current LTE 4G protocol that could possibly provide mobile customers with a faster, more efficient user experience. There is another side to the coin, however, as the nation’s top providers continue to fight for control of mobile frequencies.
Is LTE-U good news or bad news? | Like other, current communications technology, LTE-U allows users to get online using a cellular connection. The controversy arises from the fact that LTE-U will share frequency bands with a range of devices, including Bluetooth enabled headphones and WiFi routers. With mobile signals now leveraging additional bandwidth on these common channels, there is a potential that data speeds will increase significantly, which is generally good news for both provider and consumer.
FCC approves LTE-U as of February 2017 | Following a round of extensive testing, the FCC has concluded that LTE-U and WiFi can indeed coexist. As of mid-February 2017, the commission has gone on to approve the manufacture and sale of LTE-U enabled devices, some of which should be appearing in the very near future. In the wake of this decision, many of the bigger providers, including T-Mobile, Verizon and AT&T, will be launching a new range of compatible products within the next few months.
The LTE-U controversy | The landmark decision follows a lengthy debate within regulatory bodies about the future of WiFi in an LTE-U enabled reality. Cable carriers in particular are clashing with cellular providers over the potential changes, fearing that increased data traffic will interfere with other devices on the network; devices such as WiFi routers, and the gamut of Iot smart devices. Some consumer advocates are convinced that LTE-U will threaten urban WiFi hotspot networks, and have lobbied the FCC to look more closely at the potential impact of its adoption. Their primary concern is that the FCC has compromised on an issue that will require mobile carriers to share data signals with WiFi signals, but only in locations where the WiFi signal is strong. Currently, the answer to the question of whether LTE-U will be helpful or harmful remains to be seen.