LTE in Unlicensed Bands

LTE in Unlicensed is an innovative technology that combines unlicensed spectrum with 4G LTE technology to improve service to all Americans.

Policy Topics

The wireless industry supports the use of unlicensed spectrum to serve consumers. LTE in Unlicensed uses unlicensed spectrum together with an enhanced version of 4G LTE so consumers experience improved coverage, speed, mobility and security.

Unlicensed spectrum is a sandbox for wireless experimentation, where innovators are encouraged to freely innovate without government permission, subject to certain minimum technical standards. 

LTE in Unlicensed was designed to co-exist peacefully with other unlicensed technologies – from Wi-Fi to cordless phones – and complies with the FCC requirements. The wireless industry is committed to ensuring that consumers’ Wi-Fi and other services are not adversely affected.


Wireless companies developed LTE in Unlicensed technology to maximize the capabilities of 4G LTE networks and provide better coverage, faster speeds, reduced latency and smoother transitions between carrier networks and unlicensed technologies like Wi-Fi. Adding the reliability and security of LTE in Unlicensed also improves consumers’ wireless experiences. 

The FCC’s unlicensed spectrum policy framework is designed for permission-less innovation, and LTE in Unlicensed technology was designed by wireless engineers to meet those technical standards and co-exist with other unlicensed devices and technologies. There are three different varieties of LTE in Unlicensed (LTE-U, LAA and MulteFire), and all have the same basic characteristics.  

As rigorous lab and initial field testing demonstrate, LTE in Unlicensed coexists well with Wi-Fi. And that’s important to us because wireless carriers rely on Wi-Fi and so do our customers. 

LTE in Unlicensed shares well with Wi-Fi and other technologies because the technology looks for unused unlicensed spectrum nearby, and if no vacant channel is nearby, uses the least crowded channel through a “listen before talk” mechanism – taking turns with Wi-Fi users. All three varieties of LTE in Unlicensed use a “listen before talk” mechanism. 
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