What is MulteFire?
MulteFire is a technology for deploying LTE in unlicensed spectrum that was developed by Qualcomm. Unlike the strategies of LTE-U or License-Assisted Access, which rely on a licensed spectrum anchor aggregated with LTE in an unlicensed band, MulteFire allows the standalone use of LTE in unlicensed spectrum. MulteFire can be used to deploy mobile broadband data services and support Voice over LTE. It can support handovers among cells in a small-cell deployment and is capable of interworking with external mobile networks for service continuity, according to a technical paper on the technology.
Watch a demonstration of the technology below:
What spectrum can MulteFire be used in?
MulteFire can be used in any unlicensed spectrum where there is contention for use of the spectrum, although deployments are initially expected in the 5 GHz unlicensed band and potentially also in the 3.5 GHz shared band in the U.S. MulteFire implements a listen-before-talk strategy for coexistence, similar to that of License-Assisted Access; according to Qualcomm, MulteFire is based on Release 13 LAA in the downlink and Release 14 enhanced LAA in the uplink.
When will MulteFire be deployed?
Qualcomm demonstrated the first over-the-air connection of MulteFire in October of last year. The MulteFire Alliance released its 1.0 version of the specification in January 2017. Mazen Chmaytelli, president of MulteFire Alliance, said that the group expects to see initial lab trials by the end of the year and early next, with some field trials based on testing prototypes. Multefire Alliance is putting its certification program framework together by the end of this year. “Everything points toward the second half of 2018,” he said.
What are some use cases for MulteFire?
MulteFire may enable enterprises or cable companies to launch their own LTE networks using unlicensed spectrum. Chmaytelli expects to see MulteFire adoption within industrial verticals such as shipping ports, mines and airports where large enterprises don’t have licensed spectrum and want more mobility than Wi-Fi typically provides, combined with LTE characteristics such as improved security. MulteFire is also anticipated to be a connectivity option for internet of things deployments.
What are some of the companies backing MulteFire?
Aside from Qualcomm, member companies of MulteFire Alliance include infrastructure vendors such as Nokia and Huawei; cable companies including Comcast and Charter Communications, as well as cable industry research and development organization CableLabs; Cisco, Ruckus Wireless and Boingo Wireless, and Softbank.