I recognize that Part I and Part II of my LTE-U/Spectrum Game of Thrones ran somewhat long and dense, even by Tales of the Sausage Factory standards. So for those of you looking for something a bit lighter, I’ve prepared an abbreviated version — this time based on a different epic saga involving the supernatural, mysterious circumstances, and . . . Scoobie snacks?
Ruh roh! Time to solve another groovy mystery below . . .
[The scene: the lobby of the Federal Communications Commission, which for some reason looks oddly like a spooky mansion front hall with suits of armor. In a corner, tied up with convenient ropes, is a hulking figure with pointy ears and fangs. Standing in a group are Cable, Wireless, Google, and our intrepid gang of Public Knowledge public interest policy wonks.]
Me: Cable, Wireless, there isn’t any LTE-U Wi-Fi curse! You guys have been fighting each other over nothing.
Cable: But then who blocked the cooperation between 3GPP and IEEE? And who renamed LTE-U ‘Licensed Assisted Access’?
Wireless: Oh yeah? Who freaked out at the Mobile World Conference in Madrid and pushed for an FCC proceeding?
Me: Guys! All the fighting started with Patent Troll over here (points to bound figure with fangs and pointy ears). He’s the one who came up with the whole idea of “LTE over unlicensed” as an alternative to Wi-Fi, and then pushed to get a pre-standard version deployed to get Wireless away from the IEEE standards process.
Wireless: But why would he do that?
Charles Duan: Because IEEE was adopting a new fair, reasonable and nondiscriminatory (FRAND) policy that would have required Patent Troll to license its essential patents on reasonable terms to rival chipmakers like Intel and Broadcom. Every time, Patent Troll lost a round on the FRAND policy at IEEE, he went back to 3GPP with stories of the LTE-U Wi-Fi curse to get you to leave the IEEE standards process.
Cable: But if Wireless wasn’t trying to kill Wi-Fi to keep us from competing, why did 3GPP change the name to ‘license assisted access?’
Christopher Lewis: Patent Troll convinced the wireless guys that unless they linked the use of LTE over unlicensed with licensed spectrum, and changed the name to get rid of the “unlicensed,” they couldn’t get rid of the LTE-U Wi-Fi curse. Patent Troll didn’t think there was anything y’all could do. But they didn’t count on Public Knowledge pushing the issue in the 3.5 GHz band proceeding and helping get the FCC on the case.
John Bergmayer: After that, Patent Troll needed to keep you both fighting. He had to push Wireless to get a pre-standard release out there BEFORE the FCC could push the standard process back on track.
Me: The more Patent Troll pushed Wireless to move quickly to deploy, the more Cable and GOOG became convinced Wireless wanted to destroy Wi-Fi.
GOOG: You mean Wireless doesn’t want to destroy Wi-Fi streaming?
Me: We’re not saying Wireless wouldn’t love the opportunity to interfere with your mobile Wi-Fi system if you became a real competitive threat. I mean, hey, you or cable would deploy a system capable of messing up your competitors if you could get away with it, wouldn’t you?
Cable: True. [pause] I mean OF COURSE NOT!
Me: But the real reason Wireless wanted LTE-U is because they’re spectrum constrained.
GOOG: How the heck are they spectrum constrained? Especially Verizon?
T-Mobile: Did you see how much the last spectrum auction cost? We bid $1.75 bn and came up with almost nothing! Even Verizon can’t keep paying $10 billion forever.
VZ: We only have so many wireline systems we can sell off, and we have a streaming video service to launch. We need to have LTE-U so we can charge people when they access our video ap over unlicensed spectrum as well as licensed spectrum due to its internal billing software.
Cable: But who is Patent Troll, and how did he convince the wireless guys about the “LTE Wi-Fi Curse.”
Charles Duan: I think it’s time to show you. [dramatically rips off rubber troll mask]
All: (Collective *gasp*) It’s old man QUALCOMM!!
Charles Duan: Qualcomm has a huge number of essential patents for the 3GPP LTE standard. But if LTE-U were a joint IEEE/3GPP standard, Qualcomm would have to license the essential patents to rival chipmakers under IEEE’s FRAND policy. That would not only cost Qualcomm billions of dollars in monopoly profits in LTE-U, it might have jeopardized Qualcomm’s ability to maintain its patent monopoly in the licensed LTE space.
Wireless: THAT’s why Qualcomm started LTE-U forum! To keep control of the essential patents used in LTE-U!
Me: Exactly. Qualcomm hoped to throw the FCC off the trail by releasing a stand alone version of LTE-U. They muddied the issue further by dropping the LAA name and making it look to the Wall St. Journal and everyone else like this was a fight between cable and wireless. But really it was Qualcomm playing you both the whole time!
Qualcomm: And I would have gotten away with it too, if it hadn’t been for those stupid PKers and that dumb Wetmachine blog.