Major carriers like Verizon and T-Mobile as well as technology companies Qualcomm have recently expressed their frustrations with the slow progress of the Wi-Fi Alliance in finalizing timelines for initiating LTE-U test plans. While the carriers have maintained that they are ready and willing to deploy LTE-U equipment using licensed and unlicensed spectrum at the earliest, Qualcomm laments that the process has been dragging on for over a year, where it should have in fact been implemented over a year ago. On its part, the Wi-Fi Alliance maintains that there are several issues that remain to be addressed, given that its decisions will be taken on the basis of a consensus between LTE-U and Wi-Fi stakeholders, but hopes that the final test plan will be released by September of this year.
As of now, a major difference of opinion exists in the industry on whether LTE-U, which will thrive on unlicensed spectrum, should be implemented or the industry should wait for LAA, which is based on licensed spectrum and whose standards process is currently being vetted by 3GPP and is not expected to launch until the middle of next year. If Verizon and T-Mobile get to implement LTE-U now, it would give them a head-start over their rivals as LAA is more than a year away from being used. However, their frustrations have not been shared by rival carrier AT&T. AT&T has made it clear that it prefers to wait for the standardized LAA technology rather than implementing LTE-U which may cause possible damage to nearby Wi-Fi systems. Unlike LTE-U, LAA would check on available channels to broadcast and if any channel were used by a Wi-Fi system, then it would transmit on a different channel so as not to damage existing Wi-Fi systems. The Wi-Fi Alliance holds a similar position to AT&T and has urged caution in testing and deployment of LTE-U.
566 Ventures' analyst William Ho believes that implementing LTE-U would not be a good idea due to the fact that devices compatible with the spectrum will not be available until later this year or by sometime next year, and because of this, implementation of the spectrum would be a "meaningless exercise." Ovum analyst Daryl Schoolar also said that if they start now, Verizon and T-Mobile will not be able to deploy LTE-U until the end of this year, which would leave a very little gap between the implementation times of LTE-U and the better-regulated LTE-LAA. The Wi-Fi Alliance is not totally averse to LTE-U, nor is the FCC, as Qualcomm was given a temporary license in May to test LTE-U in conjunction with T-Mobile in Bellevue, Washington, Simi Valley in California, Richardson in Texas, and North Las Vegas in Nevada. However, the Wi-Fi Alliance won't allow the final test plan to pass until it sorts out issues like the ability of devices to operate at three different signal levels in the presence of other devices, apart from other work package issues.