Qualcomm Technologies has successfully made the first over-the-air connection via MulteFire using listen-before-talk (LBT).
MulteFire is a new mobile cellular technology based on LTE that operates in unlicensed spectrum. As part of the test, Qualcomm demonstrated that MulteFire, with full co-existence capability in operation at all times, can provide LTE-like performance while fairly co-existing with Wi-Fi on the same 5 GHz channel in unlicensed spectrum.
"This OTA test is an important step forward in the development and commercialization of MulteFire technology," said Matt Grob, executive vice president and chief technology officer, Qualcomm Technologies, Inc. "It is also an important stepping stone towards furthering 5G shared spectrum technologies, as 5G New Radio (5G NR) is being designed to support licensed, unlicensed and shared spectrum types."
MulteFire is based on 3GPP standards, specifically Licensed Assisted Access (LAA) in Release 13 for downlink and enhanced Licensed Assisted Access (eLAA) in Release 14 for uplink. Similar to LAA and eLAA, MulteFire is inherently designed to share the unlicensed spectrum fairly with Wi-Fi and other technologies by using the LBT standard.
Leveraging LTE technology in unlicensed spectrum brings performance to MulteFire users that will experience better capacity, improved coverage and mobility. Qualcomm, which is a founding member of the MulteFire Alliance, claims that neighboring Wi-Fi users will also experience improved performance compared to having Wi-Fi as a neighbor, which the company also has demonstrated for LAA that uses the same LBT coexistence mechanism as MulteFire.
MulteFire is applicable to any spectrum that benefits from over-the-air sharing using LBT, both unlicensed (e.g., 5 GHz) and shared spectrum (e.g., 3.5 GHz CBRS in the United States). As it does not require an anchor in licensed spectrum, MulteFire opens the doors to any operator, enterprise or IoT vertical to take advantage of the LTE family of technologies.
The MulteFire Alliance was formed last year and is an international association dedicated to developing global technical specifications for MulteFire and establishing a product certification program. The organization also aims to promote a global ecosystem for MulteFire. The Alliance expects to deliver its Release 1.0 specification in the coming months.