Will 5G be the death of LAA and LWA?


Did anyone realize that moving up 5G may kill other technologies? With all the fuss and arguments that Wi-Fi had with LTE-U, it turns out it may not be so vital anyway, now that 5G is coming. Wi-Fi has such a hold on us that we can’t imagine life without it. But will it be part of the 5G ecosystem?

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To be clear and blunt, 5G NR will be the death of LTE in about 10 years. The real question will be if 6G will be another forklift upgrade or simply an improvement on 5G. Originally, we all thought that 5G would include LTE, I know I did, now it’s becoming clear that LTE is going to slowly, painfully, fade away.

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We needed more and more throughput, so LAA and LWA were born. I know that there will be a new aggregation with 5G and LTE-U, LTE, and CBRS. I would think that even Wi-Fi and 5G may play well together. But what out all the technology improvements made to squeeze more throughput out of LTE?

Well, LTE isn’t going anywhere today. It will need to continue to improve for a two to four more years. It came a long way already. But is LTE-U still critical? Maybe for the next 3 or 4 years. It is a good supplement to the existing systems. However, it may not last nearly as long as Wi-Fi. Everyone loves Wi-Fi and understands it. Qualcomm promised us that MulteFire would be just as easy, but we never really saw much of it in the real world, did we? Device makers didn’t put it in the devices on a mass scale, and you can’t buy the hardware anywhere like Wi-Fi. It just took too long to get to market. The carriers played with it, and we’re looking forward to having LTE in the unlicensed bands. Again, too slow to market.

Will LTE-U fade away or will the carriers push to use it? Sadly, I see it fading away. Wi-Fi backers must be happy, but they were not the LTE-U killer, were they? It was really 5G NR, which ironically, Qualcomm pushed to get out. They also pushed MulteFire for LTE-U. Is Qualcomm killing its own products? However, 5G will have a huge payback, won’t it?

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I think the larger OEMs wanted to keep LTE-U for the carriers. How did that work out? What kind of numbers were deployed? Hundreds or thousands? Probably hundreds if they’re lucky. They should have pushed more cost-effective private LTE-U networks.

When 5G gets built, they will want to have it where it makes sense. So, LTE will be around for a long time until 5G matures. As aggregation goes, Wi-Fi will continue to be the offload whereas CBRS may be the best offload alternative in the USA. Maybe LTE-U will be part of that solution if it is cheap and easy to deploy. So LWA for Wi-Fi may not gain the ground it once did, in fact, it may fade away until they find a way to do something similar with Wi-Fi and 5G.

LAA may continue to roll out but will it be LTE-U or CBRS that will be the player? I am assuming CBRS, even though there aren’t many live systems. Chances are good that the CBRS systems may be the 5G NR format.

For those point to point links, or short multipoint links we have the 60GHz range which will handle high throughput areas in buildings. I am curious how the mmwave bands will play out, I brought up 60GHz because it will be license free, but the carriers are purchasing mmwave in the auctions here in the USA. The FCC is freeing up spectrum for them to grow.  How will device makers add that to their devices? I can’t wait to see.

The question in mmwave, will it be licensed or unlicensed that becomes a bigger player? I see the licensed for the carriers, but we all want to play in the lightly licensed and unlicensed zones because it’s free. The carriers won’t want to play there because it’s free. unless they need to offload.

When we look at 5G, we expect new devices that will handle everything in the 5G spectrum as well as all the legacy technologies. Most devices will need to have many technologies in them like 5G, LTE, and Wi-Fi which all need to work in many bands, including mmwave. Maybe Wi-Fi and LTE-U to work in the ISM bands. Maybe even 60GHz to work in the license-free spectrum. Devices will have more and more crammed into those little packages.

We expect 5G everywhere, and it will mature as well. We expect to see the 5G version of LAA, LWA, and anything else we can imagine. If 5G is as great as they say, hypothetically it shouldn’t need any of those technologies, right?

Listen, the transition will not happen overnight. LTE will be here a long time. Look how many carriers still have 3G alive and working. In fact, they may rely on 3G for voice since they waited so long to spend money on the VoLTE upgrade. FYI, as far as I know, there is no voice solution outside of apps to provide voice on 5G as of November 2018.

The goal is to maintain as few technologies as possible like maybe 5G and 4G. The old 3G is a drain on resources. IT doesn’t happen overnight though, does it? Old technology dies slowly if customers have devices that they rely on. IT’s going to take time and look at how hard it was to kill 2G. On Star and services like that relied on that service being around longer than it was. It’s going to be harder and harder for service like that to keep up. Especially when cars last 5 to 10 times longer than any smartphone.

The wireless ecosystem expands beyond the smartphone. It goes out into all the verticals that are building business cases for it. Just like we expect to use 5G for more than voice communication. We expect to use it for more than internet browsing and testing. We want to build IOT systems, controls AI and AR systems. Are these wise investments I the technology will be replaced in 5 years?

Didn’t LTE mean Long Term Evolution? How long did that last? Roughly 5 years so far and we’re already doing another upgrade of new wireless technology. This 5G was supposed to be a software upgrade, but it isn’t. At some point, we have to stabilize the hardware the best we can, even though the OEMs will hate that. It will eventually need to software be defined if the hardware can keep up with the advances. Sorry, I got off point.

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Back to the original question, will 5G play with other technologies? I think it has to because we’re not just looking at the carriers here. Wi-Fi has been around for decades and is NOT going anywhere. In fact, it can support 5G just not in LWA. I also think that LTE-U and CBRS will allow smaller private systems to be built, whether they are LTE or 5G has yet to be seen. If 5G NR is available to the public, why not build that system and then allow the carriers to roam onto it? I think that’s how the future systems will have to work.

Will private LTE systems start to roll out? Will the carriers still look at LAA to assist the broadband throughput? How will this happen? If 5G can deliver what it says it can.

Here’s the thing, few carriers have enough spectrum to make this happen. Why do you think there is a rush towards mmwave? It’s because most carriers don’t have the spectrum that Sprint has in the 2.5GHz spectrum. They need to supplement what they have. They need to plan for smaller cells to break down the spectrum and make it more efficient for reuse.

5G will need to align with the additional technologies and spectrums.

Also, license free will be quick and easy to deploy as systems grow. Carriers won’t have 5G everywhere until maybe 2023 if we’re lucky., It all depends on what the payback for the 5G is initially as they roll out in the heavy suburban areas.

By the way, when is the last time you read about anything in the news about LTE-U?

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