Donovan joins Sprint, T-Mobile in Gig LTE race. This will increase capacity 4-5 times, so much that I'm predicting wireless is about to enter an age of abundance. "Unlimited" plans with speeds over 100 megabits and caps well over 100 gigabytes/month will make sense at consumer prices. As T incorporates 5G in the next few years, especially Massive MIMO, costs will go down even further.
AT&T announced plans to increase capacity 5X, with 4 carrier aggregation, 4x4 MIMO and 256 QAM - the blessed trio of the Gigabit Internet. See For non-engineers. How LTE gets to the gigabit: 4x4 MIMO, 4 Band Carrier Aggregation, 256 QAM for my attempt to explain this to ordinary people. The gig is shared across the cell site, but individual users will usually get hundreds of megabits unless at the edge of the cell or behind walls. Deployment in 2017 will probably be modest because most of AT&T's cells rarely see congestion today.
Gigabit LTE technology is so cheap that AT&T can do this without raising capital spending. Verizon & Vodafone estimate that wireless costs are going down 40% per year.
John Saw of Sprint will "push 1 Gbps speed boundaries very soon." Later, he specifically said, "in 2017." Neville Ray of T-Mobile replied, "T-Mobile will absolutely be first to Gigabit speeds!" They are using the techniques I describe in For non-engineers. How LTE gets to the gigabit: 4x4 MIMO, 4 Band Carrier Aggregation, 256 QAM. A gigabit, shared across the cell site, is the goal of the new Qualcomm 835 chip, about to ship. In 60-90 days, expect to see the 835 in the Samsung Galaxy 8, the Xiaomi MI 6, and phones from HTC and LG. Phones with a good connection will usually deliver hundreds of megabits. Behind some walls or at the cell edge, speeds can go down 95%.
T-Mobile has a dramatic video of testing over 900 megabits with "an unreleased phone." It's embedded below or just click on the picture to the left. In Tokyo, Huawei's LTE ran at over a gig for the two day show. They are working with British Telecom on a 2 gigabit version using more spectrum.
Announced with Telstra in 2016, first gig LTE but hard to find. Australia's giant telco promised Gigabit LTE in 2016, based on Qualcomm's plan to have the Snapdragon 835 chip available. Alas, The best laid schemes o' Mice an' Men/Gang aft agley/An lea'e us nought / but grief an' pain. Robbie Burns. Nothing but a few engineering samples emerged before yearend. Probably to save Telstra embarrassment, Qualcomm, Ericsson, and Netgear put out a release announcing, "The World's First Gigabit Class LTE Mobile Device and Gigabit-Ready Network" on October 17th, below. A router can have a larger battery than a mobile phone and is often plugged in. It's a less challenging design problem.
Sherif Hanna of Qualcomm says simulations of the 835 have shown that average throughputs for the Cat 16 devices range between ~112 Mbps to ~307 Mbps, depending on traffic type. That's consistent with my estimate of typical user speeds in the hundreds of megabits. And speeds could be as high as ~533 Mbps for 90th percentile users. That's why Qualcomm refers to these as "gigabit class."
Three well-known technologies come together. Gig LTE isn't magic, just darn good engineering. More spectrum is put to use through carrier aggregation. Early LTE used a single 20 MHz band. Gig LTE will use three or four bands. More antennas send more signals, usually four. (4x4 MIMO). Advanced modulation (256 QAM) carries 8 bits per signal rather than the 6 bits of the earlier 64 QAM, a third more. All three were added to the LTE specs between 2009 and 2012, but only now are improved chips and radio frequency components in mass production.
More spectrum. Early 4G LTE used 20 MHz spectrum bands and achieved up to 150 megabits.
Real consumer speeds of hundreds of megabits will be practical for good connections beginning in 2017 some places.Update 1/3 I was wrong. Few reporters caught the gigabit. Qualcomm chose to emphasize performance (++30%?) and battery life. I assume they decided not to discuss gigabits until deployed more widely. end update "Gigabit" will expand rapidly to dozens of telcos around the world in the next two or three years, although the "gigabit" is a shared speed. Nobody believes it yet, but new technology can offer wireless abundance. Anywhere the market is working we're going to see wireless offers of five and ten times the current speeds and caps at 50-150 gigabytes. mmWave 5G is on top of that, one reason the telcos are unsure there will be enough of a 5G market where landlines are robust.
I thought Tuesday's Qualcomm presser would (finally) clue in the general press. Wireless experts have known this was coming since 2010-2012, when the necessary technologies became part of the LTE standards. Didn't happen, as Qualcomm didn't emphasize or explain how important this will be. It will take time. If the chip supply remains short, the Samsung Galaxy 8 and the Xiaomi MI-6S phones will not reach volume production scheduled for March and April. Both use the Qualcomm 835. Telstra in Australia and SK in Korea are ready to go as soon as the handsets ship. Sprint and T-Mobile are racing to be first in the U.S. in 2017. Huawei says over 50 telcos are working with them to plan upgrades, although I doubt many of them will go wide in 2017.
Same tools as gig LTE, only more so. At Huawei's November Tokyo event, a large sign about "Two Gigabit Mobile" for Britain intrigued me. Below, some details of a 2 gigabit test run by BT's EE division and Huawei. One gig hadn't yet shipped, so what was this? The booth engineer confirmed two gigabit systems were not yet available, but expects them soon. Using more spectrum and efficiently delivering MIMO in all bands will get close to the two gig target, in 2018 if not 2017.
I explain the technology involved in For non-engineers. How LTE gets to the gigabit: 4x4 MIMO, 4 Band Carrier Aggregation, 256 QAM In a gigabit cell site, phones usually connect at hundreds of megabits. If few are using the cell, individual speeds can approach the gigabit.
Two gigabits could double that speed, but does anyone need that much speed today? Probably not, but the gigabit and two gigabit cells allow serving all customers at much higher speeds than today