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Google and cable pals oppose LTE-U's spectrum grab plan

Signals should not roam across Spectrum, says Google. That's where our Loon balloons go

By Richard Chirgwin, 27 Oct 2015

America's National Cable & Telecommunications Association (NCTA) has recruited a bunch of high-profile supporters in its attempt to fend off the Federal Communications Commision's interest in LTE-U.

LTE-U is a spectrum-plus-standards proposal under which wireless kit could opportunistically use empty spectrum, even if a frequency has been assigned to (and paid for) by someone else.

Back in June, the NCTA first voiced its opposition to the proposal, and now it's attracted Boingo Wireless, Broadcom, Google, Hewlett-Packard Enterprise, consultant Paul Nikolich, and Ruckus Wireless to the cause.

In this FCC filing, the group warns the FCC that a spectrum free-for-all risks a “tragedy of the commons” in spectrum use.

Their opposition substantially reiterates what the NCTA has said previously – that LTE-U proponents (Verizon, Alcatel-Lucent, Ericsson, Qualcomm and Samsung) are defying standards bodies like the 3GPP and IEEE, and that they're developing technologies without the discipline of peer review.

“LTE-U proponents’ disregard for the standard-setting bodies for broadband access devices using unlicensed spectrum threatens to cause significant harm to American consumers”, they write; “these parties are risking a prisoner’s dilemma scenario where non-cooperation appears to promote their self-interest while degrading the ecosystem as a whole”.

The officially-recognised, standards-body-endorsed approach to spare spectrum slurping is called Licensed Assisted Access (LAA) and mandates a listen-before-talk behaviour that means wireless kit will leave the “spare” spectrum alone if it detects a prior user.

LTE-U has not, so far, mandated listen-before-talk. At the current state of the LTE-U Forum's proposals, that would be down to individual implementations – but supporter T-Mobile has promised if it adopted LTE-U it would use the European approach.

Google's appearance in the no-LTE-U lobby is interesting, since all the other companies on the list have a stake in selling wireless kit.

However, The Register would note that Google's ambition to create a global access network out of its Project Loon probably make it sensitive to spectrum developments around the world. ®

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