Wireless industry efforts to advance LTE Unlicensed (LTE-U) technology received an important boost last Friday as the FCC’s Office of Engineering and Technology (OET) approved Qualcomm’s request for special temporary authority (STA) to conduct tests of LTE-U equipment at Verizon sites in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma and Raleigh, North Carolina.  Mobile broadband providers are looking toward LTE-U as a means of establishing their own systems of Wi-Fi hotspots that would alleviate network congestion while competing against the Wi-Fi network offerings of cable operators. 

In FCC documents requesting the STA, Qualcomm stated that its goal “is to evaluate the technical performance of pre-commercial LTE-U equipment, operating in downlink-only mode in the . . . 5 GHz band, in a highly controlled field environment in order to assist the ultimate development of commercial products.”  According to Qualcomm, the test will involve two cellular stations at each site, and will encompass both outdoor and indoor LTE-U small cells that will “simultaneously transmit a single 20 MHz signal in the 5 GHz band and an LTE” signal in the 1.9 GHz PCS band.  (Before it conducts transmissions in the 1.9 GHz band, Qualcomm will need to obtain the consent of affected PCS license holders in each test area.)  Members of the Wi-Fi Alliance, which have voiced concern about the potential of  LTE-U transmissions to interfere with existing unlicensed Wi-Fi operations, will be invited to observe the tests.  Qualcomm also said it will perform lab-based experiments at a Verizon facility in compliance with a co-existence test plan that has been developed by the Wi-Fi Alliance and is slated for release later this month.