There’s plenty of excitement surrounding 5G and the possibilities it brings, but let’s not forget that LTE has plenty of room for improvement. Qualcomm, in partnership with T-Mobile, showed folks what that improvement looks like during a recent event in San Jose in the form of gigabit LTE.
According to the self-described Uncarrier, LTE Advanced is now available in over 920 markets, while gigabit LTE has gone live in 430 markets. As the name implies, LTE Advanced builds upon regular LTE with increased stability, bandwidth, and speeds, but be sure to swing by our write-up of the technology for a more thorough understanding.
The event’s focus was clearly on gigabit LTE, which Qualcomm says is achieved when you put together carrier aggregation, 4X4 MIMO, and 256 QAM technologies. The acronyms might be weird, but the end result is a Samsung Galaxy S8, which supports gigabit LTE, demoed with download speeds of 611.33 Mbps and upload speeds of 47.35.
T-Mobile and Qualcomm also showed off RAW image files transferring to Google Drive in a few seconds and 360-degree 4K video streamed with no discernible latency. Keep in mind that these are demos, so speeds in the real-world might not be as jaw-dropping, but gigabit LTE is still expected to be significantly faster than T-Mobile’s current LTE implementation.
According to T-Mobile chief technology officer Neville Ray, the carrier is definitely high on gigabit LTE:
Not only do we have a nationwide LTE footprint that’s every bit as broad as the Duopoly’s, and the fastest according to multiple third parties – it also keeps getting faster. Gigabit Class LTE technology is part of the secret sauce behind our success – and why others are struggling under the weight of unlimited – and we’re only continuing to advance with LAA on the horizon.
To be clear, AT&T, Verizon, and Sprint are also working on gigabit LTE networks. Also, T-Mobile made sure to not confuse gigabit LTE with 5G, though both Qualcomm and T-Mobile said that attaining gigabit LTE is a significant milestone in getting to 5G.
Per Qualcomm senior vice president and president Mike Finley:
In addition to providing blazing fast mobile connectivity, gigabit Class LTE enables operators to expand network capacity to accommodate increasing demands by unlimited data plans, and increases overall spectral efficiency, enabling faster speeds for all users in the network.
Ultimately, being able to use T-Mobile’s gigabit LTE network boils down to whether you own a supported device and whether you live in a supported area. While you can’t do much about the latter, since gigabit LTE will get to you when it gets to you, you can get phones that support the technology, though the list is somewhat small.
Even so, gigabit LTE gives us a glimpse into what 5G could eventually become, and just based on the speeds, that is a promising future.