Our Internet connections are getting crowded. With more and more people using the Internet, some on more than just one or two devices, networks are getting overloaded and over burdened. That problem is a bigger one for mobile carriers because their bandwidths are limited to a certain spectrum that they pay for. Qualcomm is trying to alleviate that problem just a bit by introducing a new chipset that will allow users and carriers to ride on what is known as the unlicensed spectrum of the Internet.
This spectrum isn’t exactly all empty space, so to speak. To be exact, the spectrum corresponds to the 5 GHz band used by Wi-Fi. In effect, LTE Unlicensed or LTE-U rides on the same band as Wi-Fi, which is definitely a much wider band than the almost 3 GHz of LTE Advanced or LTE-A. The better news for carriers, the unlicensed spectrum is free for all to use without paying a dime.
Good news for carriers, somewhat worrying news for Wi-Fi users and organizations. If users and carriers start riding the 5 GHz wave, the same congestion on licensed spectrum might very well happen on the unlicensed one eventually. The improvements in LTE performance could adversely impact Wi-Fi performance in turn. Qualcomm, however, tries to placate those worries, claiming that it has successfully tested how it could make LTE-U and Wi-Fi work together harmoniously. In fact, it boasts that Wi-Fi users will benefit from shifting from Wi-Fi to LTE-U because of how LTE handles that particular spectrum more efficiently.
Of course, these are based on Qualcomm’s own tests which will need to be reproduced and verified by others. It will be demonstrating exactly that at MWC 2015 next week to prove that Wi-Fi and LTE-U can coexist in peace. Qualcomm’s new family of chipsets, model number FSM99xx, with LTE-U capabilities will be available in the second half of 2015.