Media Contact: Ellen Satterwhite, esatterwhite@glenechogroup.com

Washington, DC (February 29, 2016) - A report released today finds that cell carriers’ plans to use LTE-U could disrupt local governments’ uses of Wi-Fi, drive up costs and threaten “Smart City” innovation. The report, by independent engineering firm CTC Technology & Energy, catalogues the ways cities use Wi-Fi for reliable, cost-effective connectivity and finds that, as currently conceived, LTE-U technology can dominate unlicensed spectrum at the expense of Wi-Fi. To avoid this, the report recommends LTE-U must be further tested, refined and standardized to enable LTE-U and Wi-Fi to reliably coexist.

Wi-Fi, and a number of other popular technologies like BlueTooth and RFID sensors, run over spectrum which is unlicensed, meaning that it is open to everyone. LTE-U is a new way for wireless carriers to use unlicensed spectrum to increase the capacity of their networks. LTE-U gives cellular carriers more control over unlicensed spectrum than simply using Wi-Fi, because devices using LTE-U can more aggressively capture the unlicensed spectrum, and because those devices are controlled by the carrier’s LTE network. The report finds evidence that LTE-U systems can impair or shut down Wi-Fi in a wide range of common scenarios in local government operations, because LTE-U often does not sense Wi-Fi devices. When an LTE-U system does sense Wi-Fi devices, it is designed to transmit in a way so it essentially talks over the Wi-Fi devices.

Cities use Wi-Fi to boost efficiency and innovate in virtually every aspect of local government operations. The nation’s schools and public libraries increasingly use Wi-Fi to offer Internet access to students, staff, faculty, and residents. Wi-Fi also connects in-vehicle wireless access points and an increasing variety of public safety devices. And Wi-Fi boosts economic development: nationwide, there are hundreds of examples of local governments using Wi-Fi to encourage foot traffic in historic downtowns or revitalization areas, or as an amenity in convention centers, sports stadiums, airports, or other places that stimulate economic activity.

And the potential for extraordinary growth remains. Kansas City announced in 2015 that it would use Wi-Fi to support Smart City initiatives, including smart parking, lighting, retail analytics, and public safety and security applications. Newark Liberty International Airport has Wi-Fi-connected cameras and sensors that can identify long lines or specific license plates, and report suspicious activity. The District of Columbia is using Wi-Fi for Internet of Things applications like smart parking meters. And a project in the City of Chicago, using a mixture of Wi-Fi and cellular technologies, will help the city maintain basic services like clean water and emergency services through better data.

For more information for how cities can get involved, visit the Save our Wi-Fi campaign.