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T-Mobile promises LTE-Advanced features this year, but don’t get too excited about it

An executive told the press that T-Mobile is preparing to roll out “LTE-Advanced features” by the end of 2013. Most likely, T-Mobile will enable just a few of the many technologies that make up the LTE-Advanced standard.
June 26, 2013
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Speaking at an event organized by the Light Reading Mobile industry publication, a T-Mobile executive revealed that the carrier plans to enable some “LTE-Advanced features” in the near future.

However, Dave Mayo, SVP at T-Mobile, failed to specify which features of the LTE-Advanced standard will be enabled in 2013, or the scale on which the new features will be deployed.

Most likely, T-Mo will deploy the technology  called “carrier aggregation”, which is a technique that allows network operators to bond two or more disparate swaths of spectrum, in order to ensure higher network speeds.

Carrier aggregation is just one of the technologies that make up the LTE-Advanced standard, which is a major revision to the current generation LTE, widely used in the US and around the world. The implementation of all the features in the LTE-Advanced would allow theoretical download speeds of up to 1Gbps for stationary use, though that depends on the carrier having 200 MHz of wireless spectrum, which is not feasible in many markets around the world.


So, does this mean that T-Mobile users will get LTE-Advanced speeds in the following months? Absolutely not. Just like 4G, a term that carriers used liberally, to the point it became meaningless from a technical point of view, LTE-Advanced is more of a marketing term than a clearly-defined technical standard. Because of that, carriers, phone manufacturers, and component makers get to cherry pick some of the features in the standard, like carrier aggregation, and proceed to brag about their LTE-Advanced compatible products or services.

T-Mobile may be implementing carrier aggregation this year, and perhaps some other features from the LTE-A package, but that doesn’t mean its network will magically become LTE-A, and thus superior to those of Verizon, AT&T, or Sprint. Rather than that, the deployment of carrier aggregation would be just one step on the long road to LTE-Advanced speeds.

Meanwhile in South Korea, SK Telecom switched on today the world’s first LTE-Advanced service, with a revamped version of the Galaxy S4 being the first commercial device compatible with the service.

Expect more companies to throw around the term LTE-Advanced, and know that, for now, it’s just a buzzword. For a more detailed explanation of what exactly LTE-Advanced is read this post from my colleague Robert Triggs, and, for a rundown on how the term LTE-Advanced is being used and abused, check out this piece from GigaOM’s Kevin Fitchard.