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Now that the FCC has finally signed off on the notion, T-Mobile plans to soon offer devices that support a controversial technology, known as LTE-U, that taps unlicensed spectrum to boost cell phone performance.

Decoded: LTE-U technology puts cellular devices in the frequencies usually reserved for use by technologies like WiFi, which don't require a license to occupy the airwaves. Backers of the tech claim that it doesn't cause interference — but have met resistance from some in industry who want to protect Wi-Fi.

The gritty details: The FCC on Wednesday approved the first LTE-U devices. "This is a great deal for wireless consumers, too," said Chairman Ajit Pai. "It means they get to enjoy the best of both worlds: a more robust, seamless experience when their devices are using cellular networks and the continued enjoyment of Wi-Fi, one of the most creative uses of spectrum in history." T-Mobile said that its customers "will be able to tap into the first 20 MHz of underutilized unlicensed spectrum on the 5GHz band and use it for additional LTE capacity" starting in the Spring.

What's next: Other carriers, including Verizon, are likely to follow in T-Mobile's footsteps, seizing on a way to boost their networks without having to pay for the additional spectrum. And, after years of squabbling, it will soon become clear whether LTE-U does or doesn't interfere with Wi-Fi.

Go deeper

Progressives pressure Schumer to end filibuster

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer. Photo: Win McNamee / Getty Images

A progressive coalition is pressuring Chuck Schumer on his home turf by running a digital billboard in Times Square urging the new majority leader to end the Senate filibuster.

Why it matters: Schumer is up for re-election in 2o22 and could face a challenger, and he's also spearheading his party's broader effort to hold onto its narrow congressional majorities.

4 hours ago - Health

U.S. surpasses 25 million COVID cases

A mass COVID-19 vaccination site at Dodger Stadium on Jan. 22 in Los Angeles, California. Photo: Mario Tama/Getty Images

The U.S has confirmed more than 25 million coronavirus cases, per Johns Hopkins data updated on Sunday.

The big picture: President Biden has said he expects the country's death toll to exceed 500,000 people by next month, as the rate of deaths due to the virus continues to escalate.

GOP implosion: Trump threats, payback

Spotted last week on a work van in Evansville, Ind. Photo: Sam Owens/The Evansville Courier & Press via Reuters

The GOP is getting torn apart by a spreading revolt against party leaders for failing to stand up for former President Trump and punish his critics.

Why it matters: Republican leaders suffered a nightmarish two months in Washington. Outside the nation’s capital, it's even worse.