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Verizon, AT&T joining to promote new wireless technology

Verizon, AT&T joining to promote new wireless technology
© Getty Images

Major wireless carriers and industry groups are joining in a new coalition to promote a technology they say would help them expand their networks. 

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Verizon, AT&T and T-Mobile are forming the Evolve coalition to advocate for the technology, colloquially called LTE-U, that allows mobile devices to access the unlicensed frequencies used for Wi-Fi without logging in, effectively alternating between traditional LTE and the unlicensed spectrum to broaden their networks.   

Trade groups are also part of the new coalition, as are Alcatel-Lucent and Qualcomm, which has been heavily involved in the development of technologies that allow LTE phones to access unlicensed spectrum.  

“We are working tirelessly to develop and proliferate, as rapidly as possible, far more efficient wireless technologies — LTE and Wi-Fi coexisting together — to bring consumers the best possible mobile broadband experience,” said Dean Brenner, Qualcomm’s senior vice president of Government Affairs, in a statement. “Policymakers should embrace this approach.”

The coalition backs seven principles for approaching the development and deployment of LTE-U and another similar technology called LAA. Among those principles is the idea that the government must increase the amount of unlicensed spectrum available and the philosophy that it “is important for all participants in the unlicensed space, both existing and new entrants, to coexist and play well together.”

Critics of the technology, however, say it has not been properly vetted. Those critics, led by the cable industry, say the technology could clog the spectrum used for Wi-Fi.

But supporters say their testing shows this isn’t the case — and the technology should be deployed soon to meet growing demand for broadband.

“There’s a demand now, we should be getting technology out and meeting that demand,” said Steve Sharkey, a T-Mobile executive.

No consumer devices exist yet that use LTE-U, but Verizon says it plans to roll out products using the technology in the near future.

The coalition will use "speaking engagements, dialogue with policymakers, and consumer education" to promote the technology.