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Apple Patent Describes an Alternative to Qualcomm's LTE in Unlicensed spectrum (LTE-U)



Today the US Patent & Trademark Office published a patent application from Apple titled "License Assisted Access Uplink Communication with Wi-Fi Preamble" that relates to wireless communications, and more particularly to systems, apparatuses, and methods for performing uplink LAA communication with Wi-Fi preamble information. It would appear that Apple may be working to support "Licensed Assisted Access (LAA) to counter Qualcomm's work on a first version of LTE-Unlicensed called LTE-U.


You could read about the "Controversy" LTE-U generated in the telecommunications industry here. With Apple and Qualcomm at war with each over licensing fees, it's clear why Apple will want to support a competing wireless standard regarding LAA.


LAA communication supports Gigabit Class LTE. Qualcomm provides a grand overview of extending LTE to unlicensed spectrum globally – LAA. There's been a lot of testing over the last three years as this technology pushes into the market and the 3 page report covers presentations of various interrelated standards. If you're interested, you could check it out here.


Some of the wireless communication standards available today include the following: GSM, UMTS (associated with, for example, WCDMA or TD-SCDMA air interfaces), LTE, LTE Advanced (LTE-A), HSPA, 3GPP2 CDMA2000 (e.g., 1.times.RTT, 1.times.EV-DO, HRPD, eHRPD), IEEE 802.11 (WLAN or Wi-Fi), IEEE 802.16 (WiMAX), BLUETOOTH and others.


Apple notes that in addition to the communication standards noted above there are also extensions that exist that are aimed at boosting transmission coverage in certain cellular networks.


For example, LTE in Unlicensed spectrum (LTE-U) allows cellular carriers to boost coverage in their cellular networks by transmitting in the unlicensed 5 GHz band, which is also used by many Wi-Fi devices.


Licensed Assisted Access (LAA) describes a similar technology aimed to standardize operation of LTE in the Wi-Fi bands through the use of a contention protocol referred to as listen-before-talk (LBT), which facilitates coexistence with other Wi-Fi devices on the same band.


However, the coexistence of cellular and Wi-Fi communications in the same band can still result in the degradation of data throughput and/or decreased performance of streaming applications (data streaming) when both Wi-Fi signals and LAA/LTE-U signals are present and this is what Apple's invention attempts to address.


Apple's invention covers apparatuses, systems, and methods for performing cellular uplink communication in an unlicensed frequency band (e.g., LAA/LTE-U communication) using a Wi-Fi physical layer preamble.


Exemplary Communication System with Multiple Wi-Fi Devices



In Apple's patent FIG. 6 presented above we're able to see an exemplary communication system in which multiple different devices may communicate with each other over a specific band, such as 2.4 GHz and/or 5 GHz frequency bands using Wi-Fi RAT.


Apple further notes that 5 GHz Wi-Fi (e.g., IEEE 802.11 ac/n) capable devices have become quite common, operating in both peer-to-peer mode and/or infrastructure/station mode, as shown in FIG. 6.


Data communications over a specific frequency band, e.g., over the 5 GHz band, may include Voice, Video, real time and best effort type of traffic. Illustrated devices include cameras (111), tablets (113), speakers (115), portable computers (105, 117), access ports/routers (103), game controllers (119), mobile devices such as smart phones (107), and smart monitors (121) or monitors with wireless access interface (121 together with media processing devices 123).


Also shown in FIG. 6, many of the devices may communicate over the 5 GHz band, using Wi-Fi communication technology. In some cases the Wi-Fi communications conducted by the devices may affect and/or be affected by LAA/LTE-U communications also taking place over the 5 GHz band.



Apple's patent FIG. 8 presented above illustrates exemplary aspects of LAA communication.


You definitely have to be a wireless geek to really enjoy this complex wireless technology patent covering new standards coming to future iDevices in the 5G era. The patent includes sub-chapters as follows:


  • Exemplary Communication System
  • Block Diagram of an Exemplary User Equipment (UE) Device
  • Block Diagram of an Exemplary Base Station
  • Exemplary Communication System
  • Exemplary Communication System with Multiple Wi-Fi Devices
  • LAA Structure Summary
  • LBT Procedure
  • Communication System with a Hidden Node
  • LAA Uplink Communication with Wi-Fi Physical Layer Preamble
  • Wi-Fi Preambles
  • LAA Communication Timelines, and
  • LBT Procedure with Wi-Fi Preamble Detection Support


For those daring to review this invention, check out Apple's patent application #20180139617 that was originally filed back in Q4 2017.


Apple's patent includes the following Inventors:


Farouk Belghoul, Wireless Technologies & Systems Design who previously worked at high profile companies Broadcom and NVIDIA; Christian Mucke, Senior Wireless Architect who previously worked at high profile companies Intel and Infineon; and Rafael Rivera, Sr. Manager, Carrier Technologies Management who previously worked at Samsung.


Considering that this is a patent application, the timing of any new wireless standard discussed coming to market in iPhones or other iDevices is unknown at this time.


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