The Federal Communications Commission has authorizes LTE-U, a protocol that allows mobile operators to use some unused Wi-Fi spectrum in the U-NII-1 band (5150-5250 MHz) and U-NII-3 band (5725-5850 MHz) as those it were part of a licensed spectrum asset.
Some devices support LTE-U in hardware, including those using Qualcomm's X16 LTE modem (Snapdragon 820 chip and newer designs). That includes smartphones such as the Galaxy S7/S7 Edge, LG V20, and Google Pixel. Existing T-Mobile phones will probably need a software update to enable LTE-U functionality.
Verizon has been working towards LTE-U since at least 2015. And T-Mobile US has announced deployment of LTE-U capabilities in its LTE network, following FCC certification of equipment from Ericsson and Nokia.
T-Mobile US expects to begin commercial LTE-U functions in the spring of 2017. Basically, LTE-U gives T-Mobile US customers the ability to bond some Wi-Fi spectrum (20 MHz) with T-Mobile’s licensed spectrum, while maintaining LTE sessions.
“LTE-U allows wireless providers to deliver mobile data traffic using unlicensed spectrum while
sharing the road, so to speak, with Wi-Fi,” said FCC Chairman Ajit Pai.