Carrier Wi-Fi versus LTE-U: Competition or Cooperation Image

Carrier Wi-Fi versus LTE-U: Competition or Cooperation


Unlicensed LTE (LTE-U) is currently one of the industry’s hottest topics; causing an intense debate as it rapidly progresses towards standardized release. A standard version of the technology will be included in 3GPP release 13 due in 2016. Meanwhile, some supporting operators are considering pre-standard commercial deployments and are moving forward with their trials. Network infrastructure vendors are also upgrading their portfolios to support unlicensed spectrum aggregation.

However, the rapid development of unlicensed LTE especially a non-standard version is troubling the Wi-Fi industry. LTE-U is targeting the 5GHz unlicensed band which is currently occupied by Wi-Fi. Due to the different medium access mechanisms used by these two technologies, LTE-U can negatively impact the Wi-Fi market as LTE-U signals can interfere and degrade Wi-Fi signals. LTE-U needs to adopt a channel sensing mechanism and comply with different unlicensed spectrum regulations worldwide in order to coexist with Wi-Fi.

This report covers the technical and the business aspects of unlicensed LTE and the expected effects on the Wi-Fi market. Section one outlines LTE-U development and progress from a theoretical concept to a study item in 3GPP Release 13 standard. It also highlights benefits sought by operators and rising concerns from the Wi-Fi industry. Section two gives more details about the technical requirements, the unlicensed spectrum regulations, and standardization process. It explains the main proposed methods to achieve coexistence. Section three provides an outlook on LTE-U and LWA growing market. It discusses different positions of key players from both operators and technology providers’ sides. Section four concludes the report with general observations and recommendations.

Table of Contents

    • 2.1. LTE in the Unlicensed Spectrum
    • 2.2. Benefits of LTE in the Unlicensed Spectrum
    • 2.3. Technical Background
    • 3.1. Unlicensed Spectrum Regulations
      • 3.1.1. Listen Before Talk
      • 3.1.2. Transmit Power Control
      • 3.1.3. Dynamic Frequency Selection
    • 3.2. Deployment Scenarios and Use Cases
      • 3.2.1. Use Case Examples from Vendors
    • 3.3. Coexistence Mechanisms
      • 3.3.1. Listen Before Talk
      • 3.3.2. Time Domain Multiplexing or Duty Cycle
    • 3.4. Standardization and requirements
    • 4.1. Operators
      • 4.1.1. South Korea (KT, SKT, LG Uplus)
      • 4.1.2. Japan (DoCoMo, KDDI, Softbank)
      • 4.1.3. United States (Verizon, AT&T, Sprint, and T-Mobile)
    • 4.2. Solution Providers
      • 4.2.1. Qualcomm
      • 4.2.2. Ericsson
      • 4.2.3. Alcatel-Lucent
      • 4.2.4. Nokia
      • 4.2.5. Huawei
      • 4.2.6. Samsung
      • 4.2.7. Other Small Cell Vendors
      • 4.2.8. Wi-Fi Vendors


  1. Differences between LTE-U, LTE-LAA, and LWA
  2. Regional Requirements for Channels in 5 GHz Band
  3. 3GPP Members That Support LAA and / or LWA Wi-Fi Link Aggregation
  4. Acronyms


  1. Carrier Wi-Fi Access Point Shipments, World Markets, Forecast: 2014 to 2020
  2. Yearly LTE Subscriptions, World Markets, Forecast: 1Q 1999 to 4Q 2020
  3. Femtocell Shipments by Market, World Market, Forecast: 2014 to 2020
  4. South Korea Operator Spectrum Holdings
  5. Japan Operators Spectrum Holdings
  6. United States' Operators Spectrum Holdings


  1. Supplemental Downlink (SDL) and Carrier Aggregation (CA)
  2. LTE Wi-Fi Link Aggregation
  3. Carrier Aggregation and Dual Connectivity Deployment Scenarios
  4. Home Entertainment Scenario
  5. Social Infrastructure Communication
  6. Wireless Backhaul
  7. Adaptive Duty Cycle