Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)
Q: What is MulteFire?
MulteFire is an innovative technology that enables new wireless networks by operating cellular-based technology in unlicensed or shared spectrum, combining the performance benefits of LTE with the simplicity of Wi-Fi like deployments.
The MulteFire 1.0 specification builds on 3GPP standards and is targeted for operation in the global 5 GHz unlicensed spectrum band. MulteFire 1.0 enables the full range of LTE services including voice, high-speed mobile broadband (data), user mobility and security. MulteFire 1.1 is an evolution of 1.0 technology, optimized for Industrial IoT, enhancing its potential with expanded business opportunities and a broader range of services such as eMTC and NB-IoT in unlicensed spectrum and access to new spectrum bands.
MulteFire is expected to:
- Deliver enhanced coverage, increased capacity, better radio coverage, and seamless mobility for better user experiences and security in local area deployments
- Provide mutual value across the ecosystem – configured as a neutral host network to serve multiple entities such as enterprises, venues or for clusters of residences, serving users from multiple operators
- Efficiently coexist with other spectrum users, such as Wi-Fi or LAA, using Listen-Before-Talk (LBT)
Q: What is Uni5G™?
Uni5G™ is a technology blueprint that leverages 3GPP 5G standards to define profiling and classification requirements, enabling industry verticals to efficiently deploy their own optimized, reliable and secure 5G private network in unlicensed spectrum, shared or locally licensed spectrum. Learn more by visiting the Uni5G Technology Blueprints page.
Q: When will Uni5G become available?
The first Uni5G Technology Blueprint will be available in Q4 2021.
Q: Does MFA have a unique PLMN ID?
Yes, MFA has been awarded a global Public Land Mobile Network (PLMN) ID by the International Telecommunications Union (The MFA will make the PLMN ID available to industry verticals.
Q: How does the PLMN ID benefit MFA members?
With access to a unique global PLMN ID number, industry verticals are able to deploy their own 5G private network in locally licensed spectrum or a MulteFire private network in unlicensed spectrum today. When 5G NR-U solutions become available, verticals will be able to use it to deploy 5G private networks in unlicensed or shared spectrum.
MFA members and others under MFA authorization are able to bundle the PLMN ID with their network equipment, thus simplifying the deployment process for enterprises by eliminating the need for them to separately apply for a PLMN ID.
Q: How is MulteFire different than current LTE technologies in unlicensed spectrum (LTE-U/LAA)?
- LTE-U and LAA require an anchor channel in licensed spectrum, primarily enabling mobile operators (the primary owners of LTE licensed spectrum) a better solution to use unlicensed spectrum. Unlike LTE-U/LAA, MulteFire operates solely in unlicensed or shared spectrum without requiring an LTE anchor in licensed spectrum. As a result, MulteFire is suitable for neutral host services where any MulteFire deployment can serve any MulteFire device out-of-box (also to offload mobile networks), using neutral unlicensed spectrum like 5 GHz.
- It can either be deployed by private users directly (such as venue owners or enterprises, private entity providing industrial IoT connectivity) or by wireless service providers (like Wi-Fi operators or even LTE operators e.g. where licensed spectrum is unavailable).
Q: What are the performance benefits of MulteFire?
- Enhanced capacity and coverage
- Security inherent in LTE
- Full mobility within MulteFire deployments providing quality-of-experience for services such as voice and video
- When authorized by MNO, full mobility between MulteFire and 3GPP RAT networks (2G/3G/4G)
- Leverages LTE technologies designed for self-organizing small cells—truly unplanned deployments—suited for hyper-dense deployments
Simplicity of Wi-Fi-like deployments:
- Designed to operate solely in unlicensed or shared spectrum (e.g. 5 GHz globally)—no anchor in licensed spectrum
- Access nodes (small cells) can act as a true neutral host—service any MulteFire device out of box
- Leaner, self-contained network architecture that can be installed at premises or hosted virtually
Provides flexible business models:
- Neutral host, nomadic access services to any end-user (no subscription or SIM required)
- Interface with mobile networks to offer neutral host data offload services (SIM required)
- Private network deployments, for example for industrial IoT applications
Opportunity to leverage proven LTE features such as broadcast/multicast and VoLTE (voice) and IoT optimizations such as eMTC.
Q: How will MulteFire broaden LTE technology and the LTE ecosystem to new deployment opportunities?
MulteFire will expand small cell deployment opportunities both indoor and outdoor, deployed as coverage islands, or bigger clusters with mobility in local areas, with the simplicity and self-organizing features to enable deployments also by end-users. MulteFire will create opportunities for new entities, including entities without licensed spectrum:
- Internet Service Providers, Cable Operators, and enterprise/venue owners
- IT service providers and DAS (Distributed Antenna Systems) installation companies that also may lease networks
- Allowing entities to leverage key assets—such as fixed broadband, location/venue, building, customer relationships to offer own services and provide neutral host offload to mobile operators
- Optional use of mobile network (e.g. via MVNO agreement) to deliver wide area coverage
- MulteFire will expand existing MNO coverage in harder to reach – typically indoor places – and also enables new markets for MNOs where licensed spectrum is unavailable
- Private network deployments, for example for industrial IoT applications in locations such as
- Hubs: seaports, airports, container ports, transport hubs
- Industrial: Factories, warehouses, refineries, logistics, power plants,
- Buildings: shopping malls, enterprises, hotel, campus, hospitals, public venues
Q: Will MulteFire require new devices? How will you ensure that a large ecosystem of compatible chipsets and devices will be developed?
Yes, MulteFire will require new devices that conform to MFA (MulteFire Alliance) specifications. MFA announced its formation on December 16, 2015 and issued a call for global industry participation through voluntary membership—which was the foundation of the MulteFire ecosystem starting with the specification development. The purpose of the MFA is to support the common interests of members, developers and users in the application of LTE and next generation mobile cellular technology in configurations that use only unlicensed or shared radio spectrum.
Q: MFA produces specifications based on 3GPP technologies. What is the relationship between MFA and 3GPP?
3GPP has deemed MFA a Market Representation Partner (MRP). As an MRP, MFA can offer market advice to 3GPP to bring a consensus view of market requirements for services, features and functionality. As an MRP, MFA is committed to the 3GPP scope for the 5G ecosystem.
Q: Is MulteFire a separate standard from LTE in 3GPP?
MulteFire is based on the LTE 3GPP standard and its evolution. Specifically, the MulteFire standard is based on LAA that defines LTE operation in unlicensed spectrum when assisted by an anchor in licensed spectrum. As 3GPP evolves LTE and the next generation mobile cellular technology, MulteFire will also evolve and stay aligned with 3GPP to leverage these enhancements. MFA announced its Release 1.0 specification, which is based on 3GPP Release 13 and Release 14, in January 2017.
Q: Is MulteFire based on 3GPP R13 LAA?
MulteFire is based on 3GPP R13 LAA which defines the downlink operation of LTE in unlicensed spectrum when assisted by an anchor in licensed spectrum—also known as supplemental downlink. LAA R13 uses the licensed spectrum for the uplink, with planned support for uplink in unlicensed spectrum in 3GPP R14. Since MulteFire only relies on unlicensed or shared spectrum, MulteFire will support R13 components for the downlink and align with the definition of R14 LAA components for the uplink in unlicensed or shared spectrum.
Q: Will MulteFire provide mobile operators an enhanced option for neutral host offload?
- Although possible on a technical level for licensed spectrum (known as multi-operator core network MOCN), the spectrum license regulation in many countries may not allow mobile network operators, using their licensed spectrum, to offer “neutral host” access to other operators’ subscribers. Because indoor owners often prohibit multiple, overlapping small cell deployments, this situation makes it very complex and costly for operators to use small cells to offer quality mobile services in all venues, enterprises and homes.
- Neutral host solutions, such as Wi-Fi and MulteFire using neutral spectrum such as unlicensed 5 GHz, provide common spectrum and common access points i.e. small cell deployments to serve any devices.
- MFA defines interworking functionality between MulteFire deployments and LTE networks to allow for voice and data service continuity and SIM-based authentication when a mobile operator’s subscribers are served by a MulteFire neutral host deployment.
Q: How will MulteFire cater to regulations?
MulteFire is designed to meet global unlicensed band regulations, including “Listen-Before-Talk” features required in regions such as Europe and Japan, for a truly global reach. MulteFire caters to all regulations in unlicensed spectrum, including power levels, channel sensing for coexistence and Listen- Before-Talk (LBT) requirements using Clear Channel Assessment Procedures and channel occupancy limits. As MulteFire is based on LTE with LAA functionality, it inherits the coexistence functionality and will offer the same fair coexistence and be an equally good neighbor in unlicensed spectrum as has been demonstrated for LAA.
Q: When/Where is MulteFire useful?
MulteFire technology provides secure, seamless service, proving to be ideal for local area small cell deployments (especially for dense environments for indoor and outdoor locations) and in business-critical markets. With MulteFire, private and public vertical venues, IoT verticals, businesses and property owners can create, install and operate their own private or neutral host network in the same way that they do with Wi-Fi, either independently as a private network and/ or interworking with existing mobile networks.
Q: Does LTE-U/LAA have performance benefits over MulteFire?
Yes, LTE-U and LAA with a licensed anchor and carrier aggregation are very robust as the essential procedures of acquisition, access, registration, paging, mobility and control signaling are carried out over the primary licensed anchor LTE carrier. It is therefore required that the operator already has access to licensed spectrum to build upon, hence limits its reach to licensed spectrum owners only.
MulteFire will operate solely in unlicensed or shared spectrum for all purposes — including for data, signaling and all other operations. As a result, MulteFire is different in that manner and its performance is optimized for the unlicensed case without a robust anchor in licensed spectrum. However, the coverage and capacity performance of the LAA unlicensed spectrum would be very similar to that of MulteFire.
Q: When will MulteFire become available?
MFA published its Release 1.0 specification in January 2017 and made it publicly available in April 2017. The Release 1.0 specification delivers an end-to-end architecture that supports the deployment of a MulteFire network today. The completion of MulteFire 1.1, an evolution of MulteFire 1.0 technology, was announced in December 2018. MulteFire 1.1 further expands business opportunities by providing a broader range of services, such as eMTC and NB-IoT in unlicensed spectrum, and access to new spectrum bands. Release 1.1 was published to Alliance members in January 2019 with public availability in mid-2019.
Q: Do you propose MulteFire to use regular LTE in unlicensed spectrum?
Similar to LTE-U/LAA, MulteFire uses the signals and channelization of LTE, while needing to support the specific unlicensed band (e.g. 5 GHz) and follow country specific regulations defined for unlicensed spectrum. MulteFire is also envisioned to support waveform enhancements to LTE for wider bandwidth.
Q: How do you protect Wi-Fi, what is the impact?
Fair sharing with Wi-Fi, and also with LTE-U/LAA, is at the core of MulteFire’s requirements. Similar to LAA, the MulteFire Alliance will extensively define and test MulteFire coexistence leveraging primarily coexistence work that has been defined for LAA. This includes support for ‘Listen-Before-Talk (LBT)’ regulatory requirements to make MulteFire a truly global solution.
Q: What unlicensed and shared spectrum frequency bands are envisioned for deployment of MulteFire?
With up to around 500 MHz available in 5 GHz unlicensed in most countries and more in the pipeline, 5 GHz was the initial target band for MulteFire 1.0. The MulteFire 1.1 specification adds additional spectrum bands: 1.9 GHz (sXGP in Japan or DECT spectrum globally), 2.4 GHz unlicensed (especially for eMTC), and sub-1-GHz in the 800 and 900 range (especially for NB-IoT).
From a technology standpoint, MulteFire can be deployed in any unlicensed band and/or band that involves spectrum sharing.
Q: Will MulteFire replace Wi-Fi?
No, unlicensed spectrum has multiple uses and technologies; its shared use may lead to unpredictable quality, but it is ideal for local area access (WLAN)—such as private/residential or enterprise user, where Wi-Fi is used today. MulteFire is envisioned to be the highest performance solution to solely operate in unlicensed and shared spectrum. We expect Wi-Fi and MulteFire to coexist as both will have different use cases, and specific deployment scenarios will determine which solution is chosen.
We also expect many MulteFire deployment scenarios to include both technologies, especially to provide backward compatibility and support for legacy Wi-Fi devices.
Q: Can MulteFire be as cost effective as Wi-Fi?
Yes, depending on the deployment scenario. In fact, the key benefits of MulteFire around increased coverage and multi-user capacity should lower the overall cost of networks where multiple access nodes are required. MulteFire is targeted for these high-performance use cases, especially where many cells are needed to form a large high-performance and large coverage network and/or where mobility and seamless hand-over to 3GPP networks are important. LTE in unlicensed and shared spectrum is expected to evolve further with optimizations in performance and cost, especially in the high-bandwidth scenarios which will become common with MulteFire.
Q: Wi-Fi supports wider bandwidth than LTE today; will MulteFire?
Yes, we envision that MulteFire will support wider bandwidths following the progression of LTE which currently supports the aggregation of five carriers (total of 100 MHz) announced as of early 2017 of carrier aggregation with LAA.
Q: Can MulteFire perform as well as LTE in licensed spectrum?
No. Licensed spectrum provides a noise free environment and controlled environment as opposed to MulteFire solely operating in unlicensed and shared spectrum with potential bursty uncontrolled interference from other networks and technologies such as Wi-Fi. LTE in licensed spectrum will therefore provide higher capacity and a more reliable user experience, but is limited to operators owning the license.
Licensed spectrum also allows for much higher transmit power which is key for wide area coverage needed to blanket complete countries.
Q: Will MulteFire replace 3G/4G LTE?
No, 3G/4G LTE mobile networks, which operate with an anchor in licensed spectrum, will continue to provide the reliable, ubiquitous and pervasive wide area coverage necessary for mobile broadband services—with optional interworking with MulteFire for localized data traffic offload. In many cases, 3G/4G LTE mobile networks could also complement MulteFire to add wide area coverage services.
Q: Who can deploy MulteFire small cells?
Small cells that are based on MulteFire technology are expected to operate solely in unlicensed or shared spectrum bands, and therefore anyone can deploy MulteFire small cells—the technology is suitable for both end-user and provider deployments—similar to Wi-Fi. MulteFire, similar to Wi-Fi, also provides scalable deployment models.
MulteFire creates new business opportunities that allow new market verticals to benefit from the LTE technology and ecosystem. These verticals include large enterprises, sports & entertainment, healthcare, identity management, public venues (malls, airports), hospitality, transportation applications, M2M, IoT, seaport management, gas detection, manufacturing, logistics, and the public sector (first responders, smart grids, military bases and barracks, universities, hospitals, education authorities). Each of these verticals can create customized applications and Quality of Experience (QoE) for its users.
Q: How will MulteFire become an industry-wide standard technology?
The MulteFire Alliance is working to produce fundamental industry-wide specifications based on LTE technology in unlicensed bands. MulteFire 1.0 is based on the LTE 3GPP standard and will evolve with the standard. The MulteFire Alliance announced its formation in December 2015 and issued a call for global industry participation through voluntary membership. The purpose of the MulteFire alliance is to support the common interests of members, developers and users in the application of LTE and next generation mobile cellular technology in configurations that use only unlicensed or shared radio spectrum. The MulteFire Alliance published its Release 1.0 specification in January 2017
Q: Does MFA plan to certify products?
MFA established a Certification Working Group in 2016 that is focused on developing test specifications. The first certification program, the MulteFire 1.9 GHz (sXGP) Certification Program, was launched in October 2019. In 2020, MFA announced the launch of the MulteFire 1.0 Certification Program and that DEKRA’s lab in Malaga, Spain had been named an Authorized Test Lab. MFA has certified Nokia’s small cell and customer premise equipment (CPE) as the first MulteFire 1.0 compliant devices. MFA plans to continue developing a MulteFire device ecosystem for private wireless networks. Learn more about the MulteFire Certification Program here.
Q: Does MulteFire benefit Mobile Network Operators?
MulteFire provides new opportunities for mobile operators. It allows mobile operators to use neutral host offload with enhanced performance, especially suitable in hyper-dense deployments, such as at large venues, or for customers such as enterprises that traditionally are quite volatile in their choice of mobile network provider. Traditional mobile deployments in these locations face the challenge of requiring separate spectrum bands and infrastructure for different mobile operators. This challenge may prohibit reaching all venues, enterprises and homes. Alternatively, neutral host deployments, like Wi-Fi and MulteFire, provide common spectrum and common deployment enabling neutral host services OR rapid change of operators.
Q: What is the Purpose of MFA?
MFA (MulteFire Alliance) is an international organization that is championing the global industry adoption of private cellular networks using MFA-defined MulteFire specifications for LTE and Uni5G technology blueprints for 5G. With Uni5G or MulteFire, enterprises can efficiently deploy their own optimized, reliable and secure private network in unlicensed spectrum or complement their existing private network deployments in locally licensed or shared spectrum.
Q: Who can become a member of MFA?
Mobile operators and non-mobile operators, technology and infrastructure providers, OEMs, retail/service companies, test companies, new entrants like ISPs (Internet Service Providers), fixed network operators, cable companies, IT providers from SMB, large corporations’ verticals like Healthcare, IoT, Public Venues can all become a member of MFA with a given selection criteria.