March 9, 2017
The first few months of 2017 have seen sweeping changes and policy reversals at the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) and other government agencies. It’s likely that more modifications are coming as Congress confirms new White House cabinet members. Notable in these amendments has been the trend towards deregulation. This approach will affect every industry, including wireless communications, which means engineers, field technicians, contractors, and other professionals responsible for wireless networks must be aware of the potential implications.
Take, for example, the FCC’s authorization, just before Mobile World Congress held February 27 – March 2 in Barcelona, of LTE Unlicensed (LTE-U) for use in cellular base station equipment by Nokia and Ericsson. Previously discussed in this blog, LTE-U will be deployed in the unlicensed U-NII bands to augment licensed services. Very little interoperability testing has been done, and major players in the Wi-Fi market are claiming that LTE-U will harm Wi-Fi networks – especially those in public spaces like New York City, which provides free Wi-Fi across a large portion of Manhattan (figure 1). Yet the LTE-U technology was approved, signaling the FCC’s intention to deregulate.
The Effect on Test
We should expect the deregulation trend to continue. This movement will create a need for testing of air interfaces and protocols, as well as training to help interpret results and make best use of available tools. Solutions will run the gamut from mobile interference hunting solutions, such as this system developed by Anritsu, to cloud-based tools, including SkyBridge Tools™, and remote spectrum monitoring systems that safeguard wireless networks continuously. Anritsu also offers a portfolio of handheld analyzers that provide diverse measurement capabilities, such as the S331P Site Master™ Ultraportable Cable and Antenna Analyzer. A combination of all these tools will most likely be necessary to ensure compliance in the ever-crowding RF spectrum.
Another element is the emergence of technology sectors like Internet of Things (IoT), which are already very diverse across a matrix of applications that balance useful bandwidth versus useful range. Figure 2 shows a typical IoT landscape. Add into that dimensions for battery life, cost per unit of data, and other variables, and the wireless environment becomes quite complex. Mobile Experts LLC, based in Campbell, CA, reports that there are 47 different technologies applicable to IoT use alone! It’s worth noting that many of these technologies will operate in unlicensed bands, including those that are already crowded with incumbents.
Figure 2: Typical IoT landscape diagram.
What happens when Wi-Fi, IoT, and LTE-U collide in the unlicensed band? It’s too soon to tell. What we do know is that making sense of it will require test equipment and people who know how to use it.
Anritsu provides white papers, application notes, webinars, and certified training courses to help engineers, field technicians, and other wireless professionals meet the ever-changing needs of ensuring network performance. One example is a new interference hunting poster that is available for free download.