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The next generation of LTE will be ready for businesses in 2016, Verizon says

A pedestrian checks his mobile phone while walking past a Verizon Wireless store in San Francisco on Wednesday, April 15, 2015. (David Paul Morris/Bloomberg)
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The next generation of 4G LTE will be coming to manufacturers, hospitals, universities and other business customers next year, Verizon confirmed Wednesday, putting more detail on what's been a rather hazy release schedule for a new mobile data technology known as LTE-U.

If Verizon keeps to that timeline, businesses could benefit from faster mobile Internet over commercial network subscriptions, the company claims.

LTE-U, short for LTE-Unlicensed, is a never-before-tried form of 4G mobile data that rides over the same airwaves as traditional WiFi. It's been a source of controversy because some critics fear it could "talk over" WiFi routers, Bluetooth headsets, garage door openers and other devices that operate over those shared frequencies. The cable industry is particularly concerned, because its plan has been to flood public spaces with cable-powered WiFi.

But Verizon argues that, in collaboration with the chipmaker Qualcomm, LTE-U has been designed to "coexist" with WiFi peaceably without competing against it. To back up their claims, the two companies have been showing critics and policymakers a series of stress tests of the technology. (A number of reporters got a version of this demo Wednesday at Verizon's Washington offices.)

When asked how many opponents have been persuaded by the demos, Verizon executive Patrick Welsh declined to say, but Dean Brenner, a Qualcomm executive, said many reported being "very impressed" and that their lingering skepticism had more to do with whether carriers could unilaterally force LTE-U to overpower WiFi. (Qualcomm claims they won't be able to.)

Get up to speed on this fight by reading our primer on LTE-U.