MuLTEfire vs Wi-Fi… a Storm in a Tea-cup?

On the 16th December 2015, Qualcomm, Intel, Nokia and Ericsson formed the MuLTEfire Alliance. The Alliance is now canvassing for additional members. It is expected the body will try to sign up as many device, infrastructure and telco service providers as possible. If they are able to sign up cable operators and Google, who have been staunch supporters of the Wi-Fi Alliance, that would a significant indication that the MuLTEfire Alliance is making progress.

When Qualcomm first announced the MuLTEfire initiative, the industry press seemed almost gleeful about a potential head to head slugfest between LTE, with its backers in the mobile cellular industry, and WiFi, with its support of the 802.11 WiFi Alliance. However, it is unlikely the drama will materialize.

But what is MuLTEfire?

The MuLTEfire Alliance believe using unlicensed spectrum in the 5 GHz band opportunistically allows for hyper-densification of the network. More small cells can lead to higher efficiency and better management of end-user traffic. MuLTEfire can operate solely in unlicensed spectrum and therefore does not doesn't have to be anchored to a licensed network. Furthermore the technology can be deployed by public telco networks as well as private landlord for in-building use.

The two sides have in fact taken steps to find common ground. In November 2015, the Wi-Fi Alliance hosted a workshop to formulate guidelines for coexistence between Wi-Fi and LTE on unlicensed frequencies. Fundamentally the first workshop tried to set out vested interests, outline potential solutions and establish a roadmap for future meetings.