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

Tuesday, December 23rd, 2014 (9:36 am) - Score 1,945

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.┬áThe 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.

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By Mark Jackson
Mark is a professional technology writer, IT consultant and computer engineer from Dorset (England), he also founded ISPreview in 1999 and enjoys analysing the latest telecoms and broadband developments. Find me on Twitter, , Facebook and Linkedin.
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