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Google, Microsoft, Comcast Say Verizon’s New Cellular Tech Could Wreck Wi-Fi (bloomberg.com)
324 points by walterbell on Dec 7, 2015 | hide | past | web | favorite | 175 comments

Here is the actual study - it is an interesting read: http://apps.fcc.gov/ecfs/document/view?id=60001078145

In a nutshell; the LTE transmission cycles on and off on a regular cadence without sensing if the channel is clear. This tramples over the 802.11 frames and results in higher utilization of the medium than that which is claimed by Qualcomm

Well the good news is that LTE-U appears to be for the 5 GHz band, not 2.4 GHz. You would think that it would be easier to put micro cells in the home gateways (using the bands they already own) vs. rolling out a new capabilities on the 5 GHz band in the client (I mean won't they have to wait for Apple/Android to switch to a new generation of chips?).

I guess the bad feeling is that the unlicensed bands would be used for a subscription service, whereas WiFi is controlled by the consumer (though in practice each ISP ends up using WiFi).

> Well the good news is that LTE-U appears to be for the 5 GHz band

I worry that it could make the 5G band look like 2.4G looks now. I too like the idea of a piece of spectrum used mainly by consumers or small businesses and not saturated by the big commercial gorillas. If today they are desperate enough to consider running their precious services on the wild unregulated bands then sooner or later they will be desperate enough to squeeze every last bit out of them.

Another thing is that once they are allowed in and their bottom line starts to depend on WiFi bands, they will fight to the death to stay there forever and only grow.

Where I live we have 2 WISPs - the 5GHz band already looks like the 2.4 band. This would potentially just wreck internet service for thousands of people.

Are the WISPs attaching WiFi APs to (or near) their antennas to provide service to the surrounding area?

If they aren't, then -AIUI- 5GHz (and 40GHz) gear commonly used by WISPs is highly directional and requires somewhat careful alignment in order to work. (I've heard the term "pencil beam" thrown around to describe the antenna pattern.)

The latest Wi-Fi standard 802.11ac, which has been shipping for the past 2 years, already works only in the 5GHz band. There has been a push for Wi-Fi to work in the 5GHz band ever since the 802.11n years with the "dual-band" routers, mainly because the 2.4GHz band was getting too crowded/routers were interfering with each other through walls too easily.

Well, some of us live in homes with rooms and walls, and so 5GHz is pretty useless.

...5 GHz WiFi is more than capable of going through walls. In fact, 802.11ac has significant improvements to multipath rejection, meaning it should perform better in environments with many reflections than the protocols that offer 2.4GHz operation.

Which is not to say you may not have had a bad experience with 5 GHz routers/access points -- there are plenty of commercial APs that are frankly terribly designed.

Thanks. Maybe I'll give 5GHz another try.

More capable than 2.4GHz? It's not so much about reflections, but going through solid objects. I imagined the larger wavelength of 2.4GHz dissipates less when travelling through solid objects, but this is hardly scientific. I also read stuff from internet searches that seemed to confirm this, but I don't remember nor have a link to a scientific explanation.

If you look up actual measurements of 2.4GHz vs 5GHz penetration through common household materials, it's clear that it makes far less difference than the conventional wisdom seems to indicate. I think a lot of it comes down to two major factors: pre-802.11ac devices being designed to prioritize 2.4GHz antenna performance over 5GHz, and people having their networks arranged to account for where the dead spots are on the 2.4GHz band and acting as though they should be in the same places for the 5GHz band.

Precisely. The big problem with 5GHz's reputation is that most access points, by default, pick channels where only low power is allowed. Lower power than 2.4GHz == lower range than 2.4GHz.

Although I believe all channels are high-power channels now (as of late last year or early this year?), switching to one of the old high-power-allowed channels can help. 149 is recommended.

I have yet to see any scientific paper that says 5GHz penetrates structural elements worse than 2.4GHz. Rain, yes. Walls, no.

> Although I believe all channels are high-power channels now...

If they are, my Linux systems aren't yet aware of the change.

They make the claim that the only ranges with a 30dBm transmit power are 2402 - 2472MHz and 5735 - 5835MHz. All other WiFi bands are 23dBm. (Though it does seem like the transmit power in the 5.49 - 5.73 GHz range got increased from 17 to 23dBm somewhat recently.)

> I have yet to see any scientific paper that says 5GHz penetrates structural elements worse than 2.4GHz.

I can't point you to any studies, but -anecdotally- I've found that (at the same transmit power, and all other things being equal) a 5GHz link provides a lower SNR than a 2.4GHz link. Before I switched to an AP with better antenna and radio, I found that I would not-infrequently permanently lose the 5GHz connection in my bathroom [0][1], but the 2.4GHz connection could be reliably established in the bathroom and remained solid.

Even after I've switched APs, I get a substantially better signal [2] from the 2.4GHz connection than the 5GHz one.

[0] My bathroom is tile covered, filled with pipes, and the furthest point in the apartment from my AP.

[1] "Permanently" as in "once I left the bathroom I could reestablish the 5GHz connection".

[2] Obviously, a better signal doesn't guarantee a faster connection. At my site, 2.4GHz is so overcrowded as to be nearly useless.

Regarding footnote [2], this is where 5GHz really helps. With 80MHz channels, you'll be using 1/4 the airtime to send the same amount of data.

2.4GHz is to be avoided if at all possible.

Also, measuring SNR is interesting, but you should really run a speed test of some sort. A team I work with wrote this to let access points speedtest clients without any code on the client:


(Only really tested with ath9k and ath10k. Could possibly work with other chips.)

Of course, there are many variables on translating link quality to actual throughput. Rate control algorithms are essential, and often wrong. For example, consider sending at 10x the speed and losing 2x the data. Most rate control algorithms will avoid that scenario, even though it's actually faster and conserves valuable airtime.

This is good reading on that subject: https://wireless.wiki.kernel.org/en/developers/documentation...

> Also, measuring SNR is interesting, but you should really run a speed test of some sort.

No doubt. Next time I find myself in something similar to my apartment, but in the middle of nowhere so's the three or four-dozen 2.4GHz APs that surround me don't confound the results, I'll do just that. :)

FWIW, the SNR measurements were taken with a UBNT SR-71E (802.11agn ath9k-driven) client that Linux reports as an AR928X.

I'll make a note to look at that wifiblaster program later this week. That could be pretty useful. Unrelated to that, how's the ath10k driver looking? Does it work most of the time for most supported cards these days, or does it still come with a boatload of caveats?

I think the open source ath10k driver is in a pretty good state. We're using it for the Google Fiber routers, and it's working pretty well. OnHub is also using ath10k.

That said, now that the drivers are working, it's old technology. 4x4ac is all the rage now, and ath10k is 3x3.

Some of us live in apartment complexes where a lot of APs are broadcasting in a small area, and the 3 non-overlapping channels in 2.4ghz are pretty limiting.

considering 2.4ghz is basically unusable where i live this isn't really good news.


My understanding is, just bad news: not only the LTE-U as it is now interferes with WiFi, it would also cause any phone connected to the WiFi to drain the battery faster, according to the papers.

It surely should not be allowed until it's significantly improved.

How is that good news?

Your link doesn't work by the way.

It didn't work for me either. Maybe it times out? This works, at least for now: https://webcache.googleusercontent.com/search?strip=1&q=cach...

works fine here?

Yeah weird, works for me too. Here is it on Slideshare though too: http://www.slideshare.net/zahidtg/15-105-06112015-google-inc...

I get "The requested object does not exist on this server."

not here :(

I think the worst thing are the 802.11 frame errors that results.

That comcast is part of this coalition is hilarious. My apartment building is flooded by xfinitywifi beacons, in addition to each subscribers private SSIDs. Why they insist on turning on this functionality even in urban environments boggles the mind.

Buy RF blocking window film if you are having so many issues. http://www.slt.co/Products/RFShieldingWindowFilm/RFWindowFil...

There's also a wallpaper (and even paint) version of this which isn't terrible expensive if you are living in an apartment building with exterior dry walls instead of concrete.

This is pretty much the "civilian" version of stuff government agencies use to RF proof undercover sites which could not be fitted with active jamming, it works extremely well.

I have one in the bedroom put it on because BT set up one of their metro wifi towers in line of sight of the window, it also blocks all the other wifi SSID's from outside.

But would that not risk breaking your cellular signal?

It didn't affect cell reception for me, you should be able to find something that only works on 2.4> and leave lower bands alone.

LTE uses 2.5 but it's not that common 1900-1800 and 800-900 are still the most commonly used cellular bands.

I also plugged only a single window if you check which walls/windows leak the most and plug them it should allow cell reception through.

Any way to tell if a particular window (say at a hotel) is using this film?

I would assume putting a bluetooth device on one side, then try and connect from the other.

Or look really close and hope you can see it.

I'm actually torn on this. I mean, I like that they are trying to push for wifi everywhere. But I kind of thing they should restrict it to certain businesses (Malls, pizza joints, etc) and not residential. I don't ever find myself without wifi at home unless the entire freaking neighborhood is out too (common with Comcast).

I thought that the xfinitywifi was just for Comcast subscribers. You can't call it "wifi everywhere" if it's only usable by certain people.

Excellent point.

I think their goal is to get coverage of commercial areas partly through nearby residential subscribers, since lots of them are in mixed-use areas. Even if the pizza joint doesn't have Comcast, the apartment upstairs (or across the street) might. So Comcast has a bigger chance of getting xfinitywifi coverage to places like the pizza joint if they turn on the functionality for residential routers too.

I would assume that the bandwidth used by those beacons is pretty small and negligible when compared to the total available bandwidth.

20 or so SSIDs beaconing adds up to a lot of airtime. Consider:

  * beacons are sent at a low "common" rate, perhaps 6mbps
  * beacons still include the preamble and the DIFS before that
  * 802.11n/ac get high bandwidth from aggregating multiple frames
So all those trivially small beacons take little bandwidth but a significant amount of airtime (which is a significant amount of potential bandwidth for faster clients with multiple frames to send in one aggregate)


That's true. Most 2.4GHz networks beacon at 1Mbps, which is because they are typically configured for compatibility down to 802.11b and beacons are transmitted at the lowest enabled speed.

Here [1] somebody collected measurements of time eaten by beacons at few configurations. Not a complete disaster, but still somewhat significant. For example, at the place where I am now, I'm receiving 67 beacons per second (all at 1Mbps), which, according to those calculation, wastes 17% of airtime.

[1] http://wifinigel.blogspot.com/2013/08/its-well-known-rule-of...

That's a great link / experiment, thanks.

By just counting the literal airtime of the beacons, I think it underestimates the effects a bit, because it doesn't account for the contention of the remaining air time, which would be reflected in increased collisions and small delays which (sorry to be hand-wavy again) can add up. I think if he ran some application-level tests at the same time (perhaps iperf, perhaps something more sophisticated) he would see a bigger impact to "good-put".

It just adds to the 2.4gHz channel congestion hell. Pretty much everywhere I've lived in the past 3 years, 2.4gHz has been nearly unusable.

It makes things look more crowded, but unless people are actually using the Comcast WiFi it isn't actually adding to congestion. The periodic SSID beacons are an annoyance but they use negligible bandwidth. That said, don't ever use an ISP provided access point.

>That said, don't ever use an ISP provided access point.

Because the hardware is often inferior to what you can pick up for ~$200 at a tech store, not to mention the lack of control you get with an ISP AP.

Regarding "inferior": It's fast enough and it doesn't crash (at least for me). That's probably "good enough" for most people to not care if there's a better solution.

"lack of control": The Comcast provided hardware gives me an IP via DHCP and I'm able to disable all those useless firewall features. So which features am I missing and why should I care about them?

The average home user, sure, the ISP AP may be fine. But for the average reader of HN I suspect it would not be.

I can't use an AP that does not allow me to fine-tune QoS and just tinker in general if packets are not flowing in the way that I desire.

I have quite a bit of networking knowledge and also used to work at an ISP for several years. Back then I wouldn't have used any router that didn't run my custom OpenWRT built with QoS settings, etc.

But times have changed: On my old ADSL line QoS made a huge difference due to congestion (and the large buffer sizes). SSH was nearly unusable while uploading a file. My current Comcast line is so fast that I don't experience any issues due to congestion - so how would I benefit from QoS?

Another difference is that in the past consumer-level hardware was just unreliable: I remember an old Netgear router that just crashed if there were too many concurrent TCP connections, as its NAT table would overflow. I haven't seen those issues in a long time now.

> "My current Comcast line is so fast that I don't experience any issues due to congestion - so how would I benefit from QoS?"

Are you sure you don't have a few hundred milliseconds of bufferbloat in your cable modem, as is the case for almost all modems out there?

No - I'm not. But my connection works well enough and I don't notice any delays on either SSH or VoIP connections. So why should I invest time/energy into changing something that doesn't affect me?

> So why should I invest time/energy into changing something that doesn't affect me?

This argument has a place here, but it has a cringe effect each time I see it. I find it a dangerous one if applied to other circumstances.

I'd be interested to know how much the average HN user cares about this. I certainly don't. I'm not even entirely sure how fast my home internet connection is - it's certainly fast enough for me to stream Netflix etc as well as connect to a VPN for working from home. I don't really care about anything else.

(not that my internet connection is always great - it isn't - but that lies with my internet provider, who I have no choice over, so...)

I was going to say this, but you beat me to it.

I think there are a lot of smart people on HN, but that doesn't mean they're all interested in all the same things. Tweaking wifi settings just seems like a waste of time to me, and boring to top it off. My interaction with my AP stopped at setting the ssid and passphrase.

Tweaking QoS settings is largely a waste of time nowadays, but only if your router is running an OS new enough to include modern self-tuning QoS algorithms (and preferably a community-maintained project like OpenWRT, because the commercial vendors screw up their deployment of said algorithms).

Even if you aren't going to be hacking on your router much, it still definitely pays to ensure you're using hackable hardware.

> Even if you aren't going to be hacking on your router much, it still definitely pays to ensure you're using hackable hardware.

This seems to contradict itself - how does it pay if you're not going to be hacking?

Because you get the benefits of those who do hack, simply by installing a recent stable version of OpenWRT. It's no harder than upgrading and configuring the vendor's firmware. If you tie yourself to vendor firmware, you're tying yourself to 5+ year old kernels and all the associated security and performance and stability problems and a much more restricted feature set.

The commercial vendors do an absolutely horrible job of supporting or maintaining their products and they tend to get a lot wrong with the initial software release. The OpenWRT community does a great job of putting out a solid product that works and has sensible defaults, but you can only get the full benefit of their work if you buy hardware that is open to their hacking.

My benchmarks of speed at this point are basically:

- fast enough to run Netflix and have a work VPN going at the same time

- fast enough to run Netflix, download something on Steam, and have a work VPN going at the same time

- fast enough to run Netflix, download something on Steam, have Dropbox sync multiple GB to a new computer, and have a work VPN going at the same time

Slightly off topic, but I was surprised to find that my fios provided modem/router/AP gave me a root shell out of the box, and actiontec has the full toolchain to build for it published.

http://paste.click/QEYrXr (Note the uid/gid)

With some uverse subscriptions, you have to use the ISP provided access point (at least as a modem, not necessarily for wireless) because the TV service is through IPTV and the uverse modem is needed do dns for the TV (you also can't use an arbitrary alternative dns server).

> That said, don't ever use an ISP provided access point.

Why not?

Because they're running software you do not control on what is generally sub-par hardware.

It's too cheap to get good, enterprise-grade equipment for home usage that will have no problems and allow you to turn all of the knobs.

In addition to the other answers many of the ISPs provide their hardware on essentially a rental model. The benefit to that is that if you complain loud enough they'll replace it on their dime: the detriment is the same as with any rental though, typically they overcharge you versus what you would pay if you bought it yourself. Your mileage will probably vary, but I've certainly saved money in the long run owning my own equipment, even paying for my own replacements versus storm damage and similar.

Another consideration is that often they will try to use the fact that you don't use their hardware as an excuse to not go further in troubleshooting since they "don't support 3rd party hardware."

It's fun when you get the opposite too and they follow their support scripts regardless of your 3rd party hardware and above average knowledge of the subject:

Support: On your hardware, do x.

Me: Did it already. It reported "Y".

Support: Please do it again, following these scripted steps [what don't match my actual hardware]...

[I pretend to follow along.]

Me: Done. It reported "Y".

Support: Oh, well then...

I'm sad that wifi-blocking wallpaper seems to have never taken off:


That's a cool tech. If it really provides decent attenuation of WiFi without affecting other radios I think it may still take off in the future. There will be a point when 2.4GHz WiFi doesn't work anymore at all.

How do you get to this conclusion? The density is probably not going to get much higher than it is already, but the technology is going to continue to improve.

2.4GHz technology has already stopped improving. It's just getting more crowded as "the Internet of Things" trend gets more popular, flooding the 2.4GHz band with even more devices that—owing to their low-power design—often support only 802.11b or g and only at low rates, making them horrifically wasteful of airtime.

More high-def everything, people moving from cable TV to streaming, WiFi displays, ever growing software updates, realtime online games... Growing expectations may easily compensate for technological improvement.

Maybe wallpapers are too much pita, but if it came preinstalled in the walls and floors? Why not?

Do the wallpapers/paints block cell signals at all?

They can if they can form a faraday cage

Verizon has paid many billions of dollars to license spectrum over the years. It is in their business interest to charge customers $10 per GB of data while offloading the traffic onto free spectrum. Qualcomm wants to sell millions of new chips that will be required to power this new scenario.

It would be extremely unwise to let them push LTE-U thru without lots of independent testing and analysis. Even then there is a case to be made for keeping some spectrum 'open' and unlicensed lest we see it all end up owned by a handful of corporations.

> Even then there is a case to be made for keeping some spectrum 'open' and unlicensed lest we see it all end up owned by a handful of corporations.

I think this is the important point. Let cell carriers in and they will subscribe as many people as necessary to fill the available bandwidth. After all, that's pretty much what they are paid for.

It's like road congestion - the amount of suffering depends on people's tolerance to endure suffering, not on the amount of available resource. There will always be more people willing to watch lolcat videos on their phones if they don't stutter too badly.

Keeping some spectrum aside from big operators allows at least small LANs to operate reasonably, while opening it to them may easily end up bringing suffering to everyone.

Sitting at about 0 worries. The second Verizon (or any other company's) new wireless tech started to mess with WiFi in practice (as in, at the consumer level), and was clearly attributable, they would instantly be hit with a giant tidal wave of bad PR.

Wifi works. People will not be very happy if you single-handedly break all their wifi-enabled things.

And what if it's not really clearly attributable? Imagine if there are only problems in areas with particularly high densities of LTE-U users. And even then, the problems could be sporadic, resulting in occasional wifi disconnects, or generally slower speeds. Wifi service wouldn't be "single-handedly broken," but service quality would definitely be degraded. And consumers won't be able to explain or prove why it's happening, so they aren't likely to get out their torches and pitchforks.

Depends. If Google et al are right and they have studies which show it degrades performance under certain conditions, then all it would take is one class action to get off the ground.

People will pile on, and the evidence that Verizon knows their technology can cause problems is already mounting. That they're pushing their products through without reviews or certifications could be seen as evidence of negligence or maliciousness.

> all it would take is one class action to get off the ground

What would be the cause of action? Why aren't the manufacturers of microwave ovens sued under the same cause of action?

Microwaves should be properly shielded. If your microwave is interfering with your Wifi, its time for a new microwave.

INAL nor have I really thought into this too hard, but it seems to me the difference between microwaves and wifi in this particular situation is that microwaves were the incumbents and their functionality was not disrupted by wifi, where as now wifi is the incumbent and will allegedly be damaged by the new LTE-U.

I think in this case, the best interests of the companies that were receiving support complaints/bad press for broken products would be motivated to find and prove out the problem.

If some product company (let's say, a router company) experienced some enormous increase in customer service and damage to brand image, I'd like to believe they'd eventually put quite a bit of money into finding out why they're losing money.

Could you imagine a world where a service rep has been instructed to ask whether a customer has any Verizon devices in the house? And to just give up, if they do, and blame Verizon? Would be terrible for Verizon's brand, pretty sure they're not ready (and probably don't want) to partition consumers who use internet-connected devices into pro-verizon and anti-verizon.

And poor network performance can often be attributed to multiple components.

Your WiFi is slow ? Restart your computer, upgrade your operating system, clear your browser cache, move your router closer to you, buy a different modem etc. There is plenty of room for deniability that interference is the root cause.

You're right, there definitely is (and it's obviously not a given that the service degradation would be attributable), but I think the product companies that are on the receiving end of the complaints will probably start putting money into correcting the problem (or at least rectifying public opinion) once people think the products are the problem.

Google is going to be pissed if their new wifi router doesn't work properly despite millions spent on testing, just because Verizon is screwing things up for everyone.

> Wifi works. People will not be very happy if you single-handedly break all their wifi-enabled things.

If you gradually deploy your non-solution while upselling them the cool new product, they won't even notice until it's too late.

I'm still amazed how mostly everyone is praising T-Mobile for violating net neutrality with free music and video streaming. Instead of looking at the long-term effects (prices for other types of data will stay higher), everyone just looked at the short-term effects ("we get free video streaming _and_ they made data cheaper at the same time too").

Because not everyone agrees about what "net neutrality" means.

On the more universally reviled end of the spectrum, you have companies attempting to charge servers to pass traffic to their (also paying) customers.

On the nearly universally acceptable end of the spectrum, you have the widespread use of CDNs, or the Netflix and YouTube caching servers that they give ISPs for free.

Somewhere in the middle you have wireless ISPs offering free bandwidth to their users for use with popular services. Hard to get customers to see that as a bad thing, especially if they already use those services.

> Somewhere in the middle you have wireless ISPs offering free bandwidth to their users for use with popular services. Hard to get customers to see that as a bad thing, especially if they already use those services.

I was quite glad that the CRTC ruled against this practice in Canada. If telecoms want to run successful mobile television streaming businesses, they can start selling reasonable amounts of data with their plans.

People want bigger data plans more than they want Bell TV on their phones, so I think it got reasonable public support. Consumers groups widely applauded the ruling, at least.

> If telecoms want to run successful mobile television streaming businesses, they can start selling reasonable amounts of data with their plans.

First-party services fall in a different category; quite aside from net neutrality, that raises potential antitrust concerns.

But partnering with third-party services, especially if offering to do so with arbitrary third-party services, seems far less problematic.

> First-party services fall in a different category; quite aside from net neutrality, that raises potential antitrust concerns.

Anti-trust law in the US is only relevant if the company has a monopoly.

That's exactly why net neutrality is important, and anti-trust law does not suffice. Because two competing ISP's both charging netflix to get the data you are already paying for to you, are not a monopoly.

(Notwithstanding that where I live Comcast is basically the only broadband option -- I still don't believe they have ever been legally determined to be a monopoly (yet?))

T-Mobile is not violating NN with video streaming - they have a program where they'll essentially host your stuff (i.e., the Netflix suggestion to Comcast during their spat)... it's not discriminatory, in fact on the press meeting, someone asked if porn sites would be included and the answer was favorable.

I'm not sure about their zero-rating of audio streaming.

Anyone have any info about this program? Quick googling about didn't help me, and I'm quite curious about how this program works.

Except Verizon can't upsell everyone, and if you're suggesting that they can lead a push to replace wifi as we know it today, I would definitely put money on that NOT happening.

You're assuming people understand there's a limited amount of bandwidth available in a given amount of wireless spectrum.

Indeed; more generally, you're assuming people have any idea at all how the device in their hand connects to the internet, or even what the internet really is (it's a series of tubes!).

Most people live in a state of ignorant bliss.

Does this make you think that there's more going on with this story than meets the eye? It doesn't seem a giant like Big Red would be ignorant to something like this. They must have an end-game that's not being portrayed here. However unconcerned they seem to be towards bad PR, I'm surprised they'd risk being the reason iWhatever's aren't syncing.

Didn't really think there would be more to the story, though there very well could be. I think this is more the case of:

1. We made something awesome in labs (by bending/breaking some traditional rules)

2. It's X% faster than traditional connections/has all these properties, let's get to market ASAP

3. Oh, in the real world, this tech doesn't play nicely with other tech because of how we built it

4. Maybe we can just muscle it through?

If the scale were smaller (let's say, developers on some widely used open source standard/code), this would have been a simple case of "oops, that's a bit shit, better get back in the lab and try to figure out a way to not trample other broadcasts, but keep the speed boosts we were proud of".

Celluar companies has payed to the state to have monopoly on certain air frequencies for a number of years which brings in good profits. Now these celluar companies want to sell paid services on the non licensed bands which will make free services like Wifi slower.

Here is an analogy, its like a company wanting to sell paid access to a public beach.

I'd say it's more like a street food vendor setting up a stall on a public sidewalk. Sometimes that's really convenient for both of you and it's exactly what you want, and sometimes the area is too congested so he's just in your way and it's super obnoxious. (And obviously it makes a big difference whether you're out in the suburbs or you're just off Times Square.)

And guess what? At least in NYC, there are rules about where and for how long those food vendors set up. (Not that all of them follow the rules, of course, but not having your permit is rather costly, I understand.)

"Let the market decide" doesn't work with commons. It's a tragedy, I tell you.

> not having your permit is rather costly

It sure was for Eric Garner…

If LTE-U degrades WiFi won't it work in the other way too, WiFi degrading LTE-U? If this is the case it's going to be difficult to use LTE-U inside or close to homes, which are probably the most crowded areas and so the use case of LTE-U. It could be a difficult product to sell.

Depends on wifi's reaction to what amounts to noise. Given a polite protocol that checks before sending, and a protocol that rudely blasts out a signal without checking, the latter will "win".

LTE-U surely won't be at a disadvantage to WiFi because it's designed with WiFi in mind.

Congestion-wise it will probably look like yet another WiFi AP, or zillion of them if it gets deployed sufficiently widely.

So if Wi-Fi performance is hampered then we might have to rely more on cellular data.

That can not happen.

Cellular data is not another dumb pipe, it's data transmission grafted with duct tape onto GSM et al., which are ridiculously centralized and proprietary services. There are no open source implementations, no open source hardware, certainly no open source drivers. Even if there were, you would be at the mercy of whoever operates the base station.

I have been following this technology since FCC first call for response. Here is the other side of the story: http://apps.fcc.gov/ecfs/document/view?id=60001104452

EDIT: For all I know, the result used by Google is mostly simulation based (NOT TRUE).

Qualcomm did their due diligence on simulations AND lab trials to show different results. IMHO, Qualcomm clearly has a better arguments.

Note that the link provided in the top comment by rupellohn is old. The latest one, referred in the news link, is probably (there are multiple filings) this one: http://apps.fcc.gov/ecfs/document/view?id=60001331188

Full list of recent filing here: http://apps.fcc.gov/ecfs/proceeding/view;ECFSSESSION=Xp4PVvB...

TL;DR: 1. LTE-U has been proven to be a better neighbor to a WF AP than another WiFi AP. In other words, two WiFi APs in the same room perform worse than One WiFi AP and One LTE-U station.

2. Fairness: 2 WiFi APs should each share each have 5% airtime according to the standard, right? Wrong. Lab trials show one AP could take up to 80% +. Refer to http://apps.fcc.gov/ecfs/document/view?id=60001104452 "Wi-Fi/LTE-U Airtime Fairness". LTE-U always gives 50% Air time to its WiFi neighbor.

3. It is more of a political argument than a technological argument now. Note that at this point LTE-U spec does not violate the regulation on unlicensed spectrum.

DISCLAIMER: I don't work for Qualcomm. But it is easy to see who has a better argument.

> For all I know, the result used by Google is mostly simulation based, whereas Qualcomm did their due diligence on simulations AND lab trials.

I find it ironic that you've been "following this technology", have quick access to Qualcomm filing links, are happy to fill in details, but couldn't be bothered to even skim Google's filing.

The Jindal and Breslin study is well written and understandable. I'd suggest reading it since you seem invested in the topic.

I stand corrected.

I confused the filing by Google with other WiFi supporters (which uses simulation results). I have read through the all the filing months ago and apology for the bad memory. I agree that Jindal and Breslin study is solid and raised a valid concern. But they were all addressed in a response though.

Now I'd love to know how others think after reading Qualcomm's filing and not just take on one side of the story.

The response was a vacuous non-response that didn't address any of the technical points. If Qualcomm provided a detailed technical response I'd love to see it.

What do you mean by technical?

Section 3 of Qualcomm's filing did respond to many concerns in either simple analysis and/or lab tests. For example, the concern on the impact of rate control algorithm in WiFi.

Why does Verizon want LTE-U so badly? They were against wifi calling until recently! I thought their network was perfect :)

The only thing I can think of is that they don't have enough high-frequency spectrum (1700/1800/2ghz+) which means lower theoretical data speeds.

Do not trust Verizon in the slightest.

They already violate their open/unlocked agreement for LTE and prevent other LTE devices from coming on their network and prevent theirs from going on other networks.

They are going to do whatever they can get away with.

I just assume evil intentions whenever one of the major carriers is involved in a dispute. I don't know what's in their hearts and minds in situations like this, but I know their history, and to trust an entity that has been abusive to consumers for decades to have good intentions would be silly.

I don't necessarily think Google or (gods forbid) Comcast are above criticism, but in this case Verizon is wanting to sell the commons back to us. This is akin to Nestle saying water is not a human right, for a digital society.

So if I buy an unlocked LTE device from somewhere, I cannot use it on verizon?

Nope. 99% of them won't be allowed.

* with extreme exceptions there are some just so they can claim they meet federal guidelines

Now you might be able to trick activate an LTE sim for verizon on a verizon phone and then get it to work on your phone but technically verizon doesn't allow it

One day there is going to be a really large lawsuit about this, specifically because it violates the spirit of LTE licensing if not the actual letter of the law.

What the do to prevent their phones being taken to other carriers is even more devious. To get around LTE portability requirements, they simply disable specific LTE bands like the ones for T-Mobile, etc. So yeah you can put a T-Mobile sim in there but the phone won't get any signal.

Why do we have to keep saving the internet!

Because the Internet was the first - and so far only - global free or mostly free market that has ever existed. It came of age at a time in which every major economy is highly regulated, rigid and bureaucratic. By design it came into this world with: free speech and expression, the ability to create and start things at will without permission (no little bureaucrat to get approval from first), and had little to no taxation placed on top of it for a long time (even if eg in the US those sales taxes were supposed to be paid anyway). The powers that be have had to work for two decades to try to cripple it to strip that very high degree of freedom away and acquire the control they want over it (whether for data espionage purposes, or control of commerce, or control of speech for social purposes, or taxation et al). Most governments were caught entirely off-guard with the speed at which the Web emerged.

Any time large bureaucracies run into a free market, they inevitably try to kill or regulate it (whether for the benefit of entrenched companies, or for state control purposes, or out of misguided nanny-state protectionism). There are few nations across the globe that haven't followed the same increasing regulation / control path with regards to the Internet, to one degree or another.

Um - in this case we're saving the internet (well, really radio spectrum that people use to access the internet) from private corporations, not the government. A totally free market sucks because there will never be a properly-maintained commons. If it weren't for the government, maybe I'd bolt my router to a 10-kilowatt transmitter so I can get my home wifi signal while I'm grocery shopping. So what if it sucks for everyone else! The government quite rightly regulates me in that area and says I can't do that.

If the internet as we know it today ever dies, I'm 80% sure it will be due to private corporations screwing everyone to make an extra buck, not due to government over-regulation.

I understand your point in general, but in this case you could probably solve it by building a faraday home, and/or use a frequency that decays rapidly, combined with repeaters around your home to counter your signal suffering decay.

Speculating gently that this 'new' tech is intended to enable the signalling layer for LTE Direct (was FlashLinq) a quasi-P2P system, designed primarily for retailers to push stuff at you, rather than create 'classic' P2P filesharing networks. Perhaps someone more knowledgeable than me on this topic can join the dots...



What does LTE-U do that you can't already do with wifi, and WiFi calling? Seems like a solution looking for a problem. Or an evil conspiracy to cripple the open, free, firmly established standard.

> What does LTE-U do that you can't already do with wifi, and WiFi calling?

It gives the telcos a way to measure and control your access to their network and services so they can bill you for it. Wifi calling offloads everything but the actual phone call to a 3rd party (i.e. not Verizon) so Verizon can't keep their fingers in the pie.

Here is the link to the Qualcomm docs (LTE forum). http://www.lteuforum.org/documents.html The interesting one I think is the SDL coexistence one. The good news is it is restricted to the 5Ghz band which is the lesser used. It does interoperate with the DCF backoff so in theory would be no worse than any other AP, but it is understandable why it would make people nervous.

This article explains a few points that explains how LTE-U can co-exist apparentely counteracting the research conclusions: http://hightechforum.org/can-lte-unlicensed-steamroll-wi-fi/

Take the 600Mhz band that is going to be up for auction and make it unlicensed explicitly for LTE.

I believe some over the air TV still goes over the 600Mhz band.

If your WiFi were getting stomped by LTE-U, would it help to get a high-power AP from Ubiquiti etc? If so, maybe prices of such APs would drop as volume increased. Also, maybe WiFi AP software could be tweaked to compete better with LTE-U.

No, because wifi is a nice protocol. It waits for the channel to be clear before transmitting. It's not a matter of transmit power, it's a matter of collision & airtime.

Higher powered APs don't help transmissions from the client which face the same interference.

Doh. Thanks.

So software tweaks, then. Yes?

I gather that the only currently feasible software tweak you could add to WiFi [0] would be to make it a substantially ruder radio neighbor by failing to wait to transmit until its transmission channel is clear.

In that world, noone wins.

[0] Other, cooler schemes require that WiFi radio manufacturers put more smarts into their radios. There are several 802.11 standards that would make WiFi devices more performant in the face of interference, -probably- remove the hassle of AP channel selection, and distribute relevant metadata about an AP to clients before they connect to aid the human in selection of the proper network and the machines in determining if the client possesses -say- credentials of some kind from a partner network that this WiFi network will honor. The benefit of adding stuff like this is pretty obvious to techies. However, because most computer users are largely non-technical, it's (apparently) impossible to make the business case to increase the unit cost of one's WiFi products by $20 or so to cover the R&D costs. :(

Yeah, but now you and your neighbors have trouble using your phones because of the AP. It's a bad trade.

OK, but maybe AP software could be tweaked to play nice with phones. Or maybe phones will stay away from WiFi bands.

Wow, Qualcomm is getting desperate to have the next thing everyone will rely on.

Buy Spectrum. They ain't making any more of the stuff. -- Buck Rogers

I don't understand how LTE-U is useful for long-range when the unlicensed spectrums have strict TX power limits.

It's not about long range. It's about getting more usable spectrum in crowded areas, or areas where the carrier failed to win a bid for sufficient licensed spectrum.

One would think Verizon had enough spectrum already. Sprint, sure, but Verizon?

Are you aware that Sprint has 40 MHz of spectrum in 90 of the top 100 markets? That's far more than any other provider.

It's entirely Sprint's fault for not building up a reliable network (of course it's in the 2.5 GHz band) on what the FCC has given them.

Edit: Maps of the relative amount of spectrum for U.S. LTE providers is here (Sprint leads the way):


This was my thought as well. One of the big things all the carriers promote is the speeds of their networks which is directly related to spectrum licenses which is directly related to the amount of capacity these networks have.

Verizon has huge chucks of spectrum licenses already to work with: (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Verizon_Wireless#Radio_frequen...)

I think unlicensed spectrum should be reserved for use by the public.

For the public - interesting stance there. Your home Wifi connects to a private network, and presumably an ISP - what makes that dramatically different from this with respect to 'public' use?

A 'public' wifi hotspot is either run by, or connects to, an ISP. What's the difference there?

LTE-U will be used by the 'public' to access an ISP (that happens to be a cell phone company). By your standard, would all of the above be disallowed as they run through a company network to get to the Internet, or would they all be allowed as they are being used by the 'public'?

Maybe that was a little unclear. If you're an individual and you don't buy bands from the government, unlicensed spectrum is for you. If you're a utility who does buy bands from the government, then spilling over into unlicensed spectrum to boost your capability seems kinda bullshit to me.

Sure, it gets quite complicated when you start talking about customer operated equipment that provides commercial service (xfinity is a good example) but perhaps the critical test would be "is the transmitting equipment fully managed and controlled by the individual?"

Considering 5 GHz doesn't really travel well through walls, is this a serious concern? 5 GHz Wi-Fi typically requires an access point in every room. Conversely, I imagine their cellular tech would really only improve the outdoor cellular experience.

Do you live in a concrete bunker? I have one dual band AP for my entire house.

I live in a huge concrete building, yes ...

why is spectrum so expensive? only Goliath size corps can afford it.

Because physics doesn't like startups I guess...

Or to phase that another way: There is a lot of spectrum. But very little spectrum that is suitable for mobile phone usage. When a resource is finite and valuable, it gets expensive.

If you want a "real" solution that would allow startups to play in the ballpit? Pass new national laws which split the cellular companies into two organisations, one that offers consumer services, and another which exists to maintain/install/upgrade the physical cellular network (and who then resells access).

It actually makes little sense to have competing and exclusive cellular infrastructure. The infrastructure should just be like a public resource, like a road, and the cellphone companies should be like shipping companies, utilising a public resource (the road) to sell a service (shipping stuff).

I'd be all for the government using eminent domain to seize every single cellphone tower in the country, and then reselling access to them to every cell phone company equally. But it isn't very capitalist...

So there is a lot of theoretical economic work on how to allocate limited rival resources like spectrum (and water). The consensus is that the efficient way to do it is auctions. I have quibbles with certain assumptions in that research,[1] but for stuff like cellular spectrum (where the owner can achieve extremely high utilization), auctioning to private companies is probably quite close to efficient. It would be more efficient if we got rid of restrictions on use and transfer.

Yes, that does mean that you end up with mega-corps providing your cellular service. But the same is true for say retail. Amazon will eat the whole industry. Physics as well as economics strongly favor mega-corps. Startups have advantages, but specific and narrow ones.

[1] See https://www.scribd.com/doc/292530059/Spectrum-Allocation-Loc...

An alternative would be to split wireless companies into 1) infrastructure companies and 2) companies that sell actual products to end users. The infrastructure companies would be allowed to bid on limited shared resources (= the spectrum), but a requirement for this would be that they would need to provide fair, reasonable and non-discriminatory access to the resources to other companies.

This is similar to the approach that some countries used when privatizing railroad companies: Instead of creating a new private company that's effectively a monopoly, they created one company that provides the infrastructure and another company that runs the trains. This allowed new private companies to enter the market, as they were allowed to use the resources under the same conditions as the former monopoly.

Are we happy with mega-corps providing our wifi service? Our bluetooth service? These are also using limited rival resources. Under an auction system, we'd be paying rent on this spectrum (through expensive closed devices, or time-limited licensed systems) to guarantee non-interference.

I personally would be less than pleased to have to pay extra on an ongoing basis just to have a wifi router in my home, or a wifi radio on my laptop. Extending private property rights into what is currently a commons would seem to imply that though.

One infrastructure company wouldn't work so well. You'd need at least two, preferably 3, with the ability for the resellers to quickly and easily switch.

Here in New Zealand we have three providers, but we have national number portability. This means I can switch networks with no fees (unless I have a contract with a termination clause) and no number downtime. It helps competition a lot.

If it was a single infrastructure company, all cell companies could use the same towers. This would remove the competition of when/where you have cellular access due to location.

Number portability is already possible here in the US, and so long as I am not on a contract I can switch without fees.

> Pass new national laws which split the cellular companies into two organisations, one that offers consumer services, and another which exists to maintain/install/upgrade the physical cellular network (and who then resells access).

That was the shape of the cellular networks in the UK in the early days of mobile telephony, IIRC.

How do you see the consumer services competing on anything but price, speed, and usage without breaking net neutrality? How do you see a "shipping" future for cell phone companies any different than the FedEx/UPS duopoly?

How do they compete now where they exist markets with good coverage? Most major US cities have complete coverage from the big three, so they must be competing on things other than coverage.

Sure, this will even the playing field for coverage, but it won't even it for anything else (customer services, device financing, cost, et al). Plus actual network costs have little relation to what companies can charge, since all cellular companies over-sell their network.

I'm sure with this there will be companies that offer terrible customer service, and price their offering dirt cheap. That's fine. But most consumers will want to find a happy medium between the quality of service Vs. the cost.

Most of the usable spectrum is being wasted on stupid junk like navigation, military and police who are using ancient, inefficient technologies. The bandwidth-specific value we're getting from the ISM bands dwarf nearly all other uses.

There would suddenly appear to be huge amounts of available spectrum if the authorities would just yank bands from the most useless legacy allocations and auction them off.

While some of the spectrum held by the military would be useful, most of it wouldn't be, same goes for whats currently used for police too. The issue with lower frequency spectrum (say, sub 550 mhz) is it starts to interact with the atmosphere and can result in some off propagation patterns (like tropospheric ducting).

I also suspect that the users of that spectrum (save for the military which has a huge amount of lightly used spectrum) might disagree with you as to how useless their technology is, I mean would you take the spectrum currently held for ham radio operators and sell it off?

Navigation (GPS) is pretty spectrum efficient, so I'm not really sure what you're getting at there.

I wasn't referring to GPS, but to things like 4.3GHz +/- 100MHz for radio altimetry.

I think theres plenty of useful spectrum to go around between 2.4GHz and 5.8

All the legacy nonsense needs to be ruthlessly eliminated. People claim frequency auctions are efficient but that's clearly not the case if you are only auctioning .1% of whats useful and allocate the remainder to waste on a free cost basis.

I think perhaps for home broadband (read wifi) use sure, we could free up another 200 mhz easy - as replacement for mobile broadband.. you wanna look between 600-1900 mhz there, anything much above 2.5 is too high (read expensive) to build a mobile network with because of site spacing.

Much of what's in that band is allocated for point to point microwave and satellite, I'd also caution you, one mans 'wasted spectrum' is another 'vital important service' both of which can be technically correct at the same time.

What bands are you talking about? The spectrum map doesn't seem to show the wholesale wasting of spectrum you seem to imply, especially in the GHz range which is most useful for cell phones et al.

As you mention police, I'll also point out public service frequencies (Part 90) recently went to 12.5kHz bandwidth (half what hams use) and there is discussion of going even further.

The really legacy allocations like broadcast TV, AM radio, and radionavigation are in spectra that Johnny Startup probably isn't interested in. Data rates are pretty slow at 30kHz.

> The bandwidth-specific value we're getting from the ISM bands dwarf nearly all other uses.

This is totally true! And it was a "junk" band to begin with. What if they allocated another unlicensed band that had room for 3-4x as many exclusive 802.11 channels as the current one?

Or better yet add them to the unlicensed pool.

because there is only one and certain parts of it can be monetized to great affect? you can get licensed spectrum in a point to point fashion for the cost of a modest used car, in some places.

you answered your own question! it's to keep the bar high so only the Goliath can play

you can't exactly go make more spectrum.

Oh no, the unregulated spectrum is unregulated.

Not sure which side I am on. I don't like Verizon, but I don't really support heavy regulation.

Unlicensed doesn't mean unregulated. The unlicensed spectrum is absolutely regulated. For instance, jamming unlicensed frequencies is illegal. Also, the unlicensed bands have power limits.

It's unlicensed/unused spectrum. Not unregulated.

The FCC still maintains ultimate regulatory oversight. And if LTE-U does cause issues with WiFi then it seems like something that makes sense to be regulated appropriately.

>Not sure which side I am on

I'll tell you! (It's clear to me what side you're on.) You do really support heavy regulation, and you don't think some guy with a cheap and crappy device in the vicinity should be able to disrupt your cell phone reception, FM radio, the GPS wherever you are trying to figure out your location, or, yes, wifi. Likewise you don't want to have to drive from California to Boston because it's too dangerous to get in an airplane with all the unregulated recreational drones in the airspace. You want the radio spectrum, class A airspace, vehicle and factory emissions, and a bunch of other stuff to be heavily regulated. (What these things have in common I'll leave as an exercise.)

EDIT: this is at -1 but it's true. I'm leaving it. I guarantee that the guy is for heavy regulation and doesn't want me disrupting his cell phone, GPS, or wifi due to crappy devices that do not even give me any benefit but just ignore regulation / or there isn't any. he enjoys the benefits and is for them. I guarantee it.

It's unregulated, or it is more means that it's publicly shared.

Truly unregulated just mean that everyone is entitled to screw everyone else, that's hardly anyone's intention.

This tastes a little like "pull the ladder up behind you". WiFi operates on unlicensed spectrum, and Google et al greatly benefit from it. Now someone else wants to use the spectrum, and they shouldn't be allowed to? It's just funny to me.

The FCC prevents devices that knowingly cause interference. I think this is an argument that the tech should be banned because they can prove ahead of time that it will interfere with other devices.

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