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EE UK Test Achieves 410Mbps 4G LTE-A Mobile Broadband Speeds

Tuesday, December 23rd, 2014 (9:36 am) - Score 1,921

EE’s plan to introduce a new 400Mbps capable variant of their latest LTE-Advanced (LTE-A) based 4G network at Wembley stadium in 2015 have taken a step forward. The mobile operator confirmed that it had conducted a successfully LTE Category 9 Carrier Aggregation Interoperability Test with Qualcomm and Huawei, which delivered peak download speeds of 410 Megabits per second.

The mobile giant has already started to roll-out a slightly slower (300Mbps) variant of its new LTE-A technology in London (here), which can deliver average speeds of around 90Mbps and over the coming year this should also reach into parts of Birmingham, Liverpool and Manchester (here). Vodafone also have a similar deployments running with many of the same areas (here).

Most of the improvements in speed are down to LTE-A’s new Carrier Aggregation mode, which for example allows EE to combine 20MHz of their existing 1800MHz radio spectrum band and 20MHz of the latest 2.6GHz band to effectively double their capacity and thus performance (assuming you own hardware that can make use of this).

But in order to reach speeds of 400Mbps+ the operators will need to adopt LTE Category 9 connectivity with 3-carrier downlink aggregation. As you might have guessed Category 9 Carrier Aggregation allows EE to aggregate 20MHz of 1800MHz spectrum with another 20MHz of 2.6GHz, and a third carrier of 15MHz from the same 2.6GHz band (EE owns enough 2.6GHz spectrum to achieve this).

Apparently EE’s recent test of this technology is the first announcement of a successful completion of LTE Category 9 interoperability testing with major solutions providers and operators in Europe.

Enrico Salvatori, Senior VP & President of Qualcomm Europe, said:

We are excited to work with EE and Huawei in ushering in the latest evolution of wireless connectivity. Transitioning from Category 6 to Category 9 LTE-A connectivity will mean 1.5x faster peak download speeds, swift application response times, reliable connectivity and connections to the fastest networks.”

Tom Bennett, Director of Network Services at EE, said:

Working closely with the excellent teams at Qualcomm Technologies and Huawei on the next generation LTE Category 9 connectivity enables us to make full use of our spectrum holdings, and continue to offer world class network capabilities, innovating to stay one step ahead of operators in Europe.

Use of our remaining 15MHz of 2.6GHz spectrum enables both our fastest speeds and an increase in capacity across our network and this successful testing phase is a big step forward. We look forward to demonstrating this at Wembley Stadium early next year.”

It’s likely that other operators, such as O2 and Three UK, will eventually follow suit but they don’t own quite as much 4G spectrum and that could limit their future capabilities. On the other hand Ofcom is already preparing to auction off a new batch of radio spectrum. Never the less a lot more spectrum will be needed if operators are to keep up with rising demand, which will be difficult because viable frequencies are a finite resource.

At the same time consumers will need LTE-A Cat 9 compatible hardware to get the above performance and even then many of the embedded chips rarely run at the top speed, while those that do can still suck your battery life away like a vampire hungry for blood.

Leave a Comment
12 Responses
  1. Avatar DTMark says:

    I’m still struggling to see how this can sit side by side with VDSL as part of a quad play offer. It makes VDSL look laughable. What’s the point in having a landline? Why on earth would I want one that can only do basic speeds, when I can have 50 down 50 up without it?

    The only way I can see it working is if the customer is forced to buy all the services and 4G is capped to make VDSL look good, or even, necessary.

    My assertions some time ago, which were derided by BT, I mean, New_Londoner, do seem to have come to pass. The threat has been recognised and must be killed at birth.

    Quad-play supporters, be careful what you wish for – it may end up as the only option and cost you a lot more in the end denying you the option to buy only what you want.

    The saving grace is that it then provides a perfect opportunity for other providers to offer precisely that. Unless they all consolidate, too. Which is where it appears to be going.

    1. Avatar Ignitionnet says:

      Easily. This is that much bandwidth across the entire cell. If it were used as a fixed line replacement, given the amount of premises a single cell serves, it wouldn’t come close to that level of performance.

      It does sound great but Virgin Media deliver 400Mb to a single node, serving perhaps 250 cable modems. They don’t go beyond 152Mb right now for a good reason. A 4G fixed line replacement would have to rely on low take up else it would grind to a halt.

    2. Avatar MikeW says:

      Simple answer: Reliability in the face of shared use, alongside seemingly unreliable backhaul from the cell.

      I’ve been forced to use EE’s 4G as a backup solution waiting for a fixed line installation.

      Performance is laughably unreliable. You can’t depend on it for anything other than ad-hoc browsing. Nothing approaching professional business.

      At the very best, with a cat 4 LTE modem, I get 30/5. This is with 5-bar signal, 90% RSSI, external antenna. At times you want to use it, speeds are nearer 15/2. Just about bearable, at least. And at peak times (anything after 3pm) more like 5/0.01.

      Annoying are the times that the transceiver restarts, or the cell otherwise disappears, and you land on their 3G network until you notice.

      At worst, it remains unusable all day long. At these times, the cell seems to be OK, but basic things (such as DNS lookups) grind to a halt – suggesting more than simple congestion of the cell.

      I can’t wait to get back to having a dependable FTTC connection.

    3. Avatar MikeW says:

      I should say all that behaviour is at a fixed location, with fixed access kit. There’s nothing mobile about it.

    4. Avatar DTMark says:

      The “low take-up” part is key. Are your EE transmitters malfunctioning 😉 We don’t see anything like that here. Performance is very consistent. Which will indeed be, in part, thanks to take-up.

      Trying it right now..


      But then it’s one of two 4G networks here, soon to be four. There are only about 250 premises round here. The Vodafone one seems to serve a wider area and performs poorly (around 12/6).

      This is not a comparison between a fixed fibre-optic broadband line and mobile broadband, it’s a comparison between VDSL and 4G.

      Just as 3G outperformed ADSL for years – average about 16/2.5 versus 1.5/0.5..

      VDSL would at best manage about 16/3.5 here give or take about 1 Meg. About the same as 3G. “Next Generation Access” – giggles.

      Were it to be essential for us to take fixed line too, bye EE, hello again Three I would expect. And get a move on with the 4G upgrade.

      While such locations are probably unusual I don’t think they’re anywhere near as rare as might be imagined. Fixed line has provided nothing for six years and looks set to provide nothing much for the next decade.

      Back to my opening point – I just don’t see how the VDSL and 4G offerings can sit side by side *here* and in other such locations (qualified) without making VDSL look laughable.

    5. Avatar FibreFred says:

      You are right DTMark, but again this gives BT (possibly) another product to offer in locations such as yours.

    6. Avatar MikeW says:

      You’re right DTMark; the downside is that “low takeup” is not a thing you can control. Just like VDSL has its limitations with distance, and merits your personal giggles (but delight from many), 4G has its limitations with the shared infrastructure rather like VM’s cable.

      It is a matter of “horses for courses” – and the variety of technologies is what helps support people in differing circumstances. Where one technology doesn’t help you, another one could.

      No – the EE transceivers aren’t malfunctioning, at least not for most of the time. It is simply down to the fact that in the effort to get coverage figures ahead of the other network, EE are deploying 4G transceivers with thin, wide coverage but limited capacity. Few sites, 360 degree sectors, high power, high radius … but covering too many people. Gradually, more sites will be included, the radius/power decreased, and capacity increased. Just like the initial deployments of 1G, 2G and 3G.

      Three have recently turned on 4G here too. Their top speeds are lower – it tends to be more like 10/3 – but there are fewer times of congestion where the upstream becomes totally unusable.

    7. Avatar Ignitionnet says:


      Good for you. Sadly here 4G supplies exactly nothing as there’s no 4G signal without sitting on the roof or standing next to the skylight.

      We do, however, have 60Mb/20Mb FTTC here, and I’m not in danger of getting a bandwidth overage bill due to using speedtest.net too much.

      My use of take up was, however, a bad one. I did of course mean utilisation of the cell, as if 250 people were using it as a fixed line replacement your performance would be quite a long way from consistent.

    8. Avatar DTMark says:

      I still don’t see how a scenario that says “I need to upload some YouTube videos from my computer. It will be quicker to copy them to my phone and upload them from that at 50 Meg or even 100 Meg, than it will be to wait for my superfast fibre-optic broadband at 4 Meg” can persist.

      I could take a drop to 20 Meg upstream, but below 10 Meg would be painful. But then we’re off abroad next year and should be able to get 200/20.

      20 Meg upstream is hardly some dizzying superfast speed.

      Given that the phone lines aren’t going any quicker, the only thing that could be done is to make 4G slower making fixed line look good by comparison.

      4G is not a nationwide solution, but then neither is DSL.

    9. Avatar FibreFred says:

      But why would anyone need to make 4g slower ?

      People buy lower speed products when higher speed products are available all the time

  2. Avatar FibreFred says:

    Isn’t it just simply a case if having more connectivity options?

    More the better ? Adsl , fttc , FTTP , wireless

  3. Avatar Bob says:

    Depends what the usage/price ratio is, if it stays the same with the Big 4 cartel, might as well stick with DSL…

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