MulteFire looks to light up unlicensed LTE

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Nokia and Qualcomm have co-founded a new organisation aiming to enable LTE connectivity from unlicensed wireless spectrum.

The MulteFire Alliance comprises the two founding members, as well as Ericsson and Intel.

MulteFire is an LTE-based technology for small cells that exclusively uses unlicensed bands such as 5GHz. The vendors said it can help enhance the LTE ecosystem beyond established players such as operators and internet service providers.

The alliance has called for other industry players to join it, in order to broaden its reach and improve the standard of technology used. It said it wants to develop specifications, set up a product certification program, as well as ensure MulteFire co-exists fairly with Wi-Fi and other technology that uses unlicensed spectrum.

Wi-Fi vendors have previously expressed scepticism about LTE-U, a technology that aggregates both licensed and unlicensed spectrum. The alliance said the technology is designed to adhere to regulations such as "Listen Before Talk", which is required across Europe and in Japan.

Stephan Litjens, Vice President, Portfolio Strategy & Analytics, Mobile Broadband, Nokia, and MulteFire Alliance board chair, said: “By bringing the benefits of LTE technologies to unlicensed spectrum, MulteFire helps provide enhanced coverage, capacity and mobility. It can also improve the Quality of Experience and security in private network deployments.

"This technology is also aimed to deliver value to existing mobile networks and private customers such as building owners. MulteFire can act as a “neutral host” with the ability to serve users from multiple operators, especially in hard to reach places such as indoor locations, venues and enterprises.”

Ed Tiedemann, Senior Vice President, Engineering, Qualcomm Technologies, and MulteFire Alliance board member, said: 

“With MulteFire, consumers and network providers will enjoy the combination of 4G-LTE like performance with Wi-Fi-like deployment simplicity in local-area deployments. Users will benefit from an enhanced connectivity experience when moving across spaces such as shopping malls and corporate offices thanks to MulteFire’s mobility features and optional integration with wide-area networks.”