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FCC greenlights further testing of LTE-U by Verizon & Qualcomm

The U.S. Federal Communications Commission has approved additional testing of a cellular technology called LTE-U, controversial because it can operate over the same bands as Wi-Fi routers.

Qualcomm will now be able to test LTE-U hardware at two Verizon facilities, Re/code reported. The firms are among those arguing that LTE-U can be more efficient than regular LTE and won't interfere with Wi-Fi.

The FCC in fact invited the companies to demonstrate that position in their testing. The technology could also thereotically interfere with other devices using unlicensed spectrum, but Wi-Fi is the most serious issue, given its ubiquity.

In response to the FCC, Qualcomm noted that it was happy not just with that decision but a letter from the standards-setting Wi-Fi Alliance saying it wasn't oppposed to testing plans. The two parties are in fact working on a "coexistence test plan," according to Qualcomm, which should form the basis for future lab and field testing.

The Alliance is still concerned about the widespread deployment of LTE-U devices however, and is asking the FCC to examine real-world testing data before allowing products on sale.

iPhones and iPads would likely be prime candidates for adopting LTE-U, but with the technology still in its early phases, it's unlikely to appear in any Apple devices until at least next year, and more likely 2018 or later.