Shawn Chang on the Role of Unlicensed Spectrum in Driving Mobile Innovation

April 11, 2016

Written by Shawn Chang, EVOLVE Coalition Spokesperson

Throughout my career working in technology policy, I’ve watched mobile innovation transform our world.

From the smartphones in our pockets to the wearable fitness trackers, mobile innovation continues to transform our lives. Consumers rely on the newest mobile products, services, and apps not only to stay informed and connected, but also to bring classrooms to life, connect rural Americans, improve delivery of health care, reduce educational disparities, and create new opportunities to build and grow businesses.

Unlicensed spectrum has played a monumental role in driving mobile innovations. This is in large part due to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) wisely applying a light-touch regulatory approach to unlicensed spectrum, making it available for everyone – using any technology – to innovate, research, and experiment. The members of EVOLVE are committed to preserving – and, in fact, expanding – this open and successful platform.

New technologies being developed in unlicensed spectrum, like LTE-Unlicensed (LTE-U) and Licensed Assisted Access (LAA), are examples of what’s coming next. They are designed to give consumers more choices in the unlicensed space to meet their mobile needs and can provide faster, more secure, and more reliable network coverage. Multiple tests have shown that LTE-U can harmoniously share the unlicensed platform with other existing technologies such as Wi-Fi. In fact, it actually improves Wi-Fi performance – it works better alongside Wi-Fi than Wi-Fi does with itself.

EVOLVE members are actively engaged with the Wi-Fi community to conduct joint co-existence testing to further alleviate any remaining concerns. We are unequivocal in our stance that technologies operating in unlicensed bands need to co-exist with and work cooperatively with Wi-Fi and vice versa. Successful co-existence is the golden rule for unlicensed technologies and the wireless industry is well-positioned and motivated to ensure successful coexistence.

Over the coming months, I will be discussing the joint testing plans and results on behalf of EVOLVE and its members. In the meantime, I’m excited to be a part of EVOLVE to help educate consumers, policymakers, and the tech community about the value of unlicensed spectrum and its limitless consumer benefits.

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