Here comes 5G Unlicensed to replace LTE-U and maybe Wi-Fi!


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I was reading a recent report by ABI Research. They have Executive Foresights and the report was “3GPP INCLUDES UNLICENSED SPECTRUM IN RELEASE 16 FOR 5G-U: PRIVATE LTE ON STEROIDS” by Dimitris Mavrakis. (www.abiresearch.com). FYI – I read a lot of reports and I enjoy ABI research’s reports.

Let’s face it, we all love the unlicensed spectrum specifically for Wi-Fi. Wi-Fi has a very strong hold on the devices and users. LTE-U never got running because the device makers never added it to the mix. Now that the 3GPP is already planning for 5G-U, things may change.

5G is going to displace LTE in a few years, we all see it coming. LTE will still have a place, but if 5G is taking over, then the one format is what most carriers want.

Is 5G-U going to work in unlicensed? I think it will if they can create an ecosystem like MulteFire was trying to do with LTE-U. The key is early adoption and to get the device makers on board early. If 3GPP is already working on a 5G-U format, then the device makers can adopt it early. I think that if Qualcomm is going to license the chips, then they need to offer a discount for the 5G-U licensing. They see the bigger picture, so they know that it has to catch on and do big numbers. Now that the FCC is releasing more unlicensed spectrum, 5G-U makes more sense than ever.

One other thing to consider, 5G-U will roll out beside 5G. Unlike LTE-U which was an afterthought of the LTE rollout. In fact, LTE-U just came along too late to get it rolling. The carriers were way behind the 8 ball on that one and the FCC didn’t help by stonewalling the release of CBRS.

How does CBRS tie into LTE-U? Because both were a gateway to private LTE. When the FCC delayed the freedom of the updated CBRS release, they crushed private LTE and LTE-U in the process. I think this was part of T-Mobile’s plan all along. They were a key factor in making the CBRS model like many of the other carrier auction models. They got what they wanted, death to LTE-U and private LTE.

Now, we can concentrate on private 5G and 5G-U, which should essentially be even more devastating to the carriers’ model. It will complement them ten times as much as well. Why do I see it both ways? Because the carriers are slowly realizing that indoor coverage is not what they want to pay for. They relied on Wi-Fi, but they know people still use voice. The carriers blew it when they stunted the progression of CBRS because it would have put LTE in the building with little or no expense to them. What to go T-Mobile!

Wi-Fi is still strong. IT survived the LTE-U scare. They panicked and did all they could do to stop it. The reality is they delayed it long enough to make private LTE obsolete. They did a good job. However, the 3GPP already creating a 5G-U model might change the outcome to that battle. The problems that LTE-U created have been “lessons learned” in the 5G-U model. The new format should roll out at the same time and maybe, just maybe, 5G will last longer than LTE. Remember that LTE-U stands for Long Term Evolution. In today’s terms, that’s about 8 to 10 years. Long-Term ain’t what it used to be!

LTE will soon be history and 5G will soon be a reality. Long live 5G!

This begs the question; will the Wi-Fi evolution be enough to help it survive? To be honest, there are so many devices that have Wi-Fi int hem that I don’t see it going anywhere before 2025. Its popularity speaks for itself.

If the carriers are still driving the spectrum needs, then they should consider that 5G in the CBRS and unlicensed bands are going to be a necessity if they want to expand indoor coverage without spending large amounts of money. T-Mobile will have a leg up if the merger with Sprint happens and they can get Airspan to upgrade the Magic Box to 5G, last mile as well as backhaul. It is going to make customers want to use this thing. They should love it if they are willing to rely on the carriers for everything because it’s so easy to set up and it works so well. Good job Sprint and Airspan for creating something so amazing and solving the indoor coverage conundrum all at the same time.

(FYI – look how easy the Magic Box is to set up here, https://www.sprint.com/content/dam/sprint/commerce/devices/sprint/magic_box_gen_2/documents/magic-box-gen-2-getting-started-guide.pdf).

This sets back private LTE systems. I am very disappointed because private LTE solved so many problems. It was ideal for manufacturing, handing off from the carriers, expanding coverage, low latency, and private enterprise networks. It is too late now, I fear. With 5G around the corner, it’s very hard to invest in a technology that could be sunset in 5 years.

Sorry to be doom and gloom for private LTE and LTE-U, but 5G-U will make everyone put those systems on hold. The CBRS spectrum will jump to 5G sooner than later. It has to be upgradable. While it’s an amazing technology, LTE will not be the choice for very much longer, will it? No, we’ll all want 5G. Even Wi-Fi routers are tacking on the 5G symbols to their boxes. Everyone wants to jump on the 5G bandwagon, don’t they?Small Cell Cover 4

Thank you for your time and learning! We’re all learning as we go, any shortcut will help! It adds value.

Be smart, be safe, and pay attention!

See Ya!

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