Near 5G speeds coming to current devices with 4G gigabit LTE
With 5G services not launching until 2020 at the earliest, EE, Qualcomm and Sony have teamed up to bring super high-speed mobile access to 4G devices.
In a demonstration event held at Wembley Stadium, a gigabit LTE mast was in operation providing real-world internet speeds that fluctuated between 10 and 20 times faster than a typical 4G connection in London.
Qualcomm said that the speeds allow for instant streaming of 4K HDR video on mobile devices and help to prevent bottlenecks at large sporting and music events where thousands of people may be uploading videos and photos simultaneously.
Currently only one device, Sony’s recently released XZ Premium, is capable of taking full advantage of these speeds due to its four antenna setup (known as 4x4 mimo in the industry). Many other existing devices will still be able to take advantage of significantly increased speeds, though, in comparison to current typical performance on mobile 4G networks.
In addition, most major smartphone OEM’s are expected to release devices featuring this nascent technology later this year.
One Qualcomm representative described 4G gigabit as a way to bridge the gap before the introduction of 5G networks, provisionally slated to be introduced in 2020.
He said these networks would be capable of achieving “multi-gigabit” speeds. Although the final specification has not been settled upon yet, a multi-industry agreement is expected to be formalised later this year.
With the amount of data sent over the internet increasing drastically every year, it is anticipated that without an expansion of network capacity using 4G gigabit and eventually 5G technologies, users could face a “data crunch” where current infrastructure will be unable to handle typical demand.
For example, EE said that attendees at this year’s Glastonbury Festival uploaded and downloaded approximately twice the amount of data in comparison to the year before.
Similarly, the recent FA Cup Final between Arsenal and Chelsea saw over 1.2 terabytes in traffic transmitted over the network during the course of the game by the fans in the stadium.
Similar matches in 2014 saw a comparatively tiny 150 gigabytes transmitted over the 4G network.
Enrico Salvatori, senior vice president and president, Qualcomm EMEA, said: “Gigabit LTE is not simply about headline data download speeds, it’s about bringing real-life benefits to the everyday user, regardless of the device they are using right now and forms the first major step towards 5G.
“It is exciting to see the culmination of all these technologies coming to life in Europe, as the first commercial devices capable of delivering this incredible user experience start to enter the industry.”
Tom Bennett, Director of Network Services and Devices at EE, said: “Peak speeds get all the headlines and their importance is simple: the higher the peak speed on our network, the better the average speed for every customer. And better average throughput means customers are doing more and getting their content more quickly and more consistently - and that means they’re happier.”
Ben Wood, Chief of Research, CCS Insight, said: “The insatiable desire for ever faster mobile speeds and increased network capacity is a driving force for technologies such as gigabit LTE. It’s exciting to see the technology being deployed in the UK providing a clear stepping stone towards 5G technology.”