Earlier this morning, we reported that Verizon is preparing to green light 5G wireless customer trials in the United States in mid-2017. T-Mobile isn’t quite ready to show its hand with regards to 5G wireless, but it is looking to extend LTE’s longevity with the launch of LTE-U this spring.
LTE-U will allow T-Mobile customers to take advantage of 20MHz of “underutilized unlicensed spectrum” on the 5GHz band. T-Mobile says that this will expand capacity and allow it to offer even faster speeds on its nationwide wireless network. It will also provide a basis for T-Mobile’s plans to blanket the country with Gigabit LTE.
T-Mobile has been field testing LTE-U since December 2016 in anticipation of FCC certification for LTE-U, which was granted today. Hardware manufacturers like Qualcomm, Nokia and Ericsson are already onboard, and it’s expected that others will join the race to fill the gap between LTE and 5G.
“We continue to push the boundaries of bringing new technologies in the unlicensed arena. Nokia is committed to working alongside T-Mobile to bring new solutions to market,” said Ricky Corker, Nokia EVP and Head of North America. “Ericsson welcomes the FCC's approval of LTE-U. The use of this technology will bring an even better customer experience while using LTE,” stated Ericsson North America’s Glenn Laxdal, Head of Network Products. “Ericsson has been working in close collaboration with our partners to ensure that this technology will work in harmony with Wi-Fi, utilizing unlicensed spectrum in an optimal way."
Verizon has also expressed an interest in both Wi-Fi and LTE using unlicensed spectrum. The nation’s number one wireless carrier filed an application in November for wireless testing in a handful of U.S. cities.
For its part, T-Mobile Chief Technology Officer Neville Ray championed the FCC certification of LTE-U, while also kicking dirt in the eyes of AT&T and Verizon. He added, “T-Mobile’s built a track record of introducing new innovations first, including deploying more LTE Advanced technologies than anyone in the US.”
As we mentioned earlier today, Neville has previously criticized Verizon’s early efforts to bring 5G technology to customers, stating during a 2016 earnings call that “Verizon [is] trying to move and say they’re going to be the first to 5G; it’s kinda BS to be honest.”