What is LTE-U?

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Raghav Kapur - everything RF

Oct 31, 2017

LTE-U is an unlicensed version of LTE in the 5 GHz frequency band. The growth in mobile data demand has left the network operators with no other choice but to explore the unlicensed spectrum (5 GHz band) to provide consumers a more robust and seamless mobile broadband experience with better coverage and faster download speeds.  

LTE-U was originally proposed by Qualcomm. This led to the formation of the LTE-U Forum in 2014 driven by Alcatel-Lucent, Ericsson, Qualcomm Technologies and Samsung. The LTE-U forum decided on the technical specs of this technology for LTE-U base stations and consumer devices operating in the unlicensed frequencies in the 5 GHz band and coexistence specifications. The specifications support LTE operation in the 5 GHz UNII-1 and UNII-3 bands as Supplemental Downlink (SDL) carriers, in conjunction with an LTE deployment in licensed bands, based on 3GPP already published Release 10 and later specifications.

There are four variants of LTE-U:

  1. LTE-U - Based on 3GPP Rel. 12, LTE-U targets early mobile operators deployments in USA, Korea and India, with coexistence tests defined by LTE-U forum.
  2. LAA - Defined in 3GPP Rel. 13, LAA (Licensed Assisted Access) targets deployments in Europe, Japan, & beyond.
  3. LWA - Defined in 3GPP Rel. 13, LWA (LTE - Wi-Fi link aggregation) targets deployments where the operators already has carrier Wi-Fi deployments.
  4. MulteFire - Multefire is a technology that allows simple deployment of LTE in the unlicensed or shared spectrum. It can be easily deployed by operators, cable companies, ISPs, building owners and enterprises just like Wi-Fi. This technology supports voice and data, either independently as a private network and can work with existing mobile networks to provide secure, seamless service. Multefire technology is based on 3GPP Releases 13 and 14 for Licensed Assisted Access (LAA/eLAA). It needs no approval or allocated spectrum for deployment. Multiple multefire networks can co-exist or overlap and it can even co-exist with other Wireless/Wi-Fi networks.