As the industry's news outlets are focused on the US carriers' race for commercial 5G, it can be easy to forget that the same LTE technologies we're using right now, and slight variations of those, are being implemented and improved daily to deliver speed boosts and better coverage while customers wait for 5G to hit the ground. One of the main channels being used for these improvements is LTE operating on unlicensed spectrum bands, or LTE-U. It's essentially the wild west of network technology, which is why the Wi-Fi Alliance has put forth a proposed coexistence plan for some of the US carriers looking to use it, and carriers are still testing the waters with it. One of those carriers is Verizon, who recently sent in a couple of applications to the FCC that seem to indicate that they're getting ready to start field tests, and they plan to use small cells to do it.
According to Verizon's filings, they're going to be making heavy use of bands in the PCS and AWS range, around the same area that normal LTE networks currently operate. 5GHz bands, on the other hand, are going to be used in a more passive, receiving-only capacity on the testing device end. While this is mostly for technical and licensing reasons, an added quirk is sacrificing the speed of including the 5GHz bands in the aggregated LTE-U stream's upload speeds in order to get better download speeds.
Interestingly, Verizon will also be making use of 802.11 Wi-Fi technologies in their small cell array, meaning increased speeds at the expense of range. This works since Verizon's test plan will only be taking place in four markets within the States, and all within the scope of only 40 small cell nodes, but viability for a wider rollout may be questionable without a significant investment of money, manpower, and time, which could harm Verizon's 5G ambitions. Testing will mostly take place in North Carolina, with Oklahoma City, Raleigh and Cary being the test cities. Irving, Texas will also be in on the fun. At this time, start and end dates for testing have yet to be announced.