Qualcomm is sampling chips and expects devices this year. "Last year, we were the first to provide an LTE Service with a speed of 500 Mbps and this year we push that up to 1 Giga bps." Korea's SKT said on the investor call. AT&T & Sprint could also offer a gig by ~2018 according to my analysis of their spectrum holding, as could the new network in Rwanda. The gig (shared) requires 40-80 MHz more spectrum than most of today's LTE, which I believe many other telcos have or will soon acquire. (I don't know enough about spectrum holdings outside the U.S. to be more specific. Data very welcome.)
Qualcomm's X16 LTE modem is now sampling and Basil El-Kadi tells me they expect commercial devices before yearend. SKT didn't announce their suppliers, but I believe Qualcomm is ahead of everyone else. To get to a gig, LTE-A features:
- More bandwidth, 60-100 MHz in total (Carrier aggregation)
- More antennas, 4x4 and 8x8 MIMO
- More bits per signal, 256 QAM
It's been a very strong year for Qualcomm, who have delivered some outstanding chips. Mediatek had been the big story the last few years, designing good chips and selling them at an attractive price. After a few rough years, Qualcomm seems to have pulled ahead again.
Every informed LTE engineer knew that gigabit 4G (shared) was on the way since 3GPP put it on the roadmap around 2009. LTE standards go up to a nominal 3 gig down, 1.5 gig up, although I don't see 8 MIMO antennas likely in mobile phones. Of course, you don't get those speeds at the cell edge or when the network is congested. But I believe that "gig" LTE will deliver hundreds of megabits 90+% of the time if you have a good connection to the cell site. Getting close to a gig is likely often possible. (Don't ask me why anyone needs those speeds on mobile.)
Qualcomm's founders, Irwin Jacobs and Andy Viterbi, are both Marconi Fellows and among the most important engineers of the last half century. They are retired now, but an EE professor tells me Qualcomm probably still has the best engineering talent in the U.S.
I get announcements of speeds of 100-450 megabits several times most weeks lately. That's now the most common new equipment. The U.S. has fallen far behind, with more than 20-30 megabits uncommon. Verizon built the world's first large LTE network from 2009 to 2012, but now most of what they installed is becoming obsolete.
Most people, including Barack Obama, don't realize that the U.S. has seriously inferior networks. Verizon and AT&T have 50,000-70,000 cell sites for 315M people. SKT has 90,000 cells for 50M people. NTT has 132,00 for 127M Japanese. China Mobile has over a million for 4.3x the U.S. population. Cell counts can't be exact, with small cells and DAS confusing the definition. The differences here are so large they are significant.
The U.S. speeds (generally 10-30 Mbps) do not make us a third world country; Lebanon & the Phillippines have recently announced speeds over 100 megabits in many cities.
I'll have more on the technical details of gigabit 4G as soon as I can get around to writing it. Qualcomm has some good information at https://www.qualcomm.com/news/snapdragon/2016/02/11/welcome-era-gigabit-class-ltewelcome-era-gigabit-class-lte and https://www.qualcomm.com/products/snapdragon/modems/x16. Here's their pr