MulteFire Alliance wraps up Release 1.0 specification

The MulteFire Alliance is celebrating a big milestone with the completion of its Release 1.0 specification. Based on 3GPP Releases 13 and 14, Release 1.0 defines how LTE operates in unlicensed and shared spectrum, two places that wireless operators and others increasingly will be using spectrum.

The alliance started in December 2015 with the goal of completing the first round of the spec within a year, and they accomplished that but wanted to wait until after the holidays to release it, according to MulteFire Alliance President Mazen Chmaytelli.

Setting out to define MulteFire, “we wanted it to be the best of both worlds,” from LTE and Wi-Fi, leveraging the capacity and coverage gains from LTE and also take what Wi-Fi did to make it simple to deploy, he said. It’s initially targeted at the 5 GHz and 3.5 GHz bands.

“It does have listen before talk,” sharing the medium fairly with others. LBT is a key attribute of Wi-Fi that advocates of Wi-Fi were concerned about when it came to LTE-U technology, which involves deploying LTE in unlicensed spectrum. Industry stakeholders developed a test plan last year to make sure LTE-U plays fair with Wi-Fi.

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MulteFire builds on elements of 3GPP Release 13 LAA for the downlink and Release 14 enhanced LAA (eLAA) for the uplink. “We didn’t want to reinvent the wheel,” Chmaytelli told FierceWirelessTech.

MulteFire enables any entity, regardless how small they are, to operate their own LTE network in unlicensed spectrum. For example, an enterprise could build a system where employees leverage the network to access enterprise specific functionality like 5-digit dialing to other employees. Depending on relationships with operators, an enterprise could hand off to a network outside the campus. Release 1.0 supports a range of LTE services, including Voice over LTE (VoLTE) and high-speed mobile broadband.

A few other capabilities in Release 1, according to the alliance:

  • Includes enhancements for operation solely in unlicensed spectrum such as robust procedures for mobility, paging, initial access and efficient uplink control channels
  • Defines a Neutral Host access mode where the same deployment can serve multiple operators, as well as a traditional access mode for a single network operator
  • Enables access authentication with or without a SIM card to provide services for subscribers from different types of service providers, including mobile operators.

According to a white paper released in conjunction with the spec, MulteFire could be the key to the adoption of small cells and enable neutral host deployments on a much larger scale since the neutral host option—a common deployment serving subscribers from multiple operators—has rarely been adopted in the deployment of licensed band small cells.

“MulteFire creates new business opportunities that allow new market verticals to benefit from the LTE technology and ecosystem,” the paper states. “These verticals include large enterprises, sports & entertainment, healthcare, identity management, public venues (malls, airports), hospitality, transportation applications, M2M, IoT, seaport management, gas detection, manufacturing, logistics, and the public sector (first responders, smart grids, military bases and barracks, universities, hospitals, education authorities). Each of these verticals can create customized applications and Quality of Experience (QoE) for its users.”

The Release 1.0 spec is available to MulteFire Alliance members today and will be made available for download by anyone with an interest in MulteFire technology by mid-2017.