Freshly FCC-approved LTE-U wireless rolls out on T-Mobile this spring

The FCC has given several companies the go-ahead to activate a wireless technology called LTE-U in their base stations; if all goes as planned, devices will be able to communicate cellular data over unlicensed frequencies technically overlapping with those of Wi-Fi.

The basic idea behind LTE-U (and related techniques called License Assisted Access and MuLTEfire) is that some frequencies in the 5 GHz band used by Wi-Fi routers were going unused. Carriers and device makers had proposed allowing these unlicensed bits of spectrum to augment existing base stations’ signals, potentially improving short-range connection speeds.

Some have raised objections over the last couple years of developmnet saying this would lead to interference and congestion in the 5 GHz band, but studies from Qualcomm (a champion of the tech) and others suggest otherwise. Well, we’re about to find out.

The devices approved today by the FCC are base stations from Ericsson and Nokia already in service and compatible with both LTE-U and LAA.

“These transmitters were already approved as LTE base stations previously,” an FCC representative told TechCrunch. “The grants issued today are for the ability for the devices to operate under Part 15 rules in the 5 GHz band.”

T-Mobile appears to be the first to take advantage of this, and compatible base stations should get the LTE-U boost in the spring. Other wireless companies have been bullish on the tech as well and will likely make similar announcements soon.