T-Mobile announced that LTE-U technology — developed in part by Qualcomm, and supported by equipment makers Nokia and Ericsson — has been FCC certified.
For LTE-U, the U stands for Unlicensed, as in unlicensed, underutilized spectrum. This allows carriers to deploy their LTE network over underused bands such as 5GHz. You may recall the 5GHz band is the same that’s used by devices like WiFi radios and wireless phones.
For companies like T-Mobile, it’s worth being able to tap into this spectrum in areas where 5GHz isn’t really being contested, but it required a technology which could automatically optimize network usage based on how crowded it is, and Qualcomm was able to figure it out.
Essentially, if it’s too crowded, you’ll fall back to T-Mobile’s other LTE bands, but if you’re in an area where 5GHz isn’t too congested then it can use that to help relieve some pressure from other areas of the network. Ultimately this results in more capacity and should make for a more reliable network overall.
T-Mobile will even be able to deploy gigabit speeds over this spectrum whenever they get that going. We’re not exactly sure when to expect T-Mobile’s full rollout of LTE-U to begin, but with how fast T-Mobile was able to get previous network enhancements rolling we wouldn’t be surprised to see it happen by the end of this year. As for other carriers, expect at least Verizon to be doing much of the same.