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EE Start Roll-out of 400Mbps 4G+ Mobile Broadband to Big UK Cities

Tuesday, June 6th, 2017 (1:55 pm) - Score 4,610

Forget about future 5G for today. Mobile operator EE has begun the process of deploying their latest 4G+ (LTE-Advanced) network upgrade to several cities across the United Kingdom, which have already demonstrated live download speeds of up to 429Mbps (66.4Mbps upload).

In fairness the operator has achieved similar speeds before, with their 2015 test at Wembley Stadium delivering a peak of 403Mbps (here). At the time EE was harnessing Carrier Aggregation and Category 9 technology from Qualcomm in order to combine 20MHz of radio spectrum in the existing 1800MHz band with 20MHz from the 2.6GHz band.

By comparison the new upgrade uses the latest Category 16 specification, which can combine radio spectrum from up to three different bands (in this case 30MHz of 1800MHz and 35MHz of 2.6GHz) and also benefits from other improvements like 4×4 MIMO (sends and receives four signals instead of just two), 10 spatial streams and 256 QAM (Quadrature Amplitude Modulation) for better efficiency of the spectrum.

In theory Cat-16 could support a maximum throughput of up to 1Gbps (Gigabits per second), although in practice such real-world speeds are usually limited by the capabilities of the hardware being used and the fact this capacity has to be shared between many users.

The latest test also made use of Sony’s Xperia XZ Premium, which is currently the one of the very few Smartphones in the UK to support Cat-16 technology.

Marc Allera, CEO of EE, said:

“Sony has raised the bar in smartphone speeds, and we’re investing and innovating to match that and give our customers the fastest network speeds in the UK. What we’ve demonstrated live in Cardiff is more than ten times the average mobile download speed. We’re rolling out this new capability in Cardiff and London’s Tech City, and we’ll keep expanding to the busiest areas of the UK so that our customers always have a great connection to do the things they love.”

The first two cities to benefit from this upgrade are Cardiff and London, while the roll-out for Birmingham, Manchester and Edinburgh should begin before the end of 2017. However operator’s need a dense infrastructure with lots of available spectrum in order to make the most of 4G+ and so this is something that will probably remain the preserve of big cities for a long time to come.

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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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21 Responses
  1. Dave says:

    This brilliant but when can I have a mobile signal!

    1. gerarda says:

      I would have thought EE would be better off improving their voice coverage so Openreach engineers don’t have to use customers phones to communicate with their office.

    2. Simon says:

      WIfi calling is built in to this phone via a separate icon. But it’s crap and you need a mobile signal to use it it says. pointless!

    3. factman says:

      just not true James, if you’re on ee

      you just have to turn WiFi on, after the service is enabled on your account… plus there is no need for a mobile signal at all

    4. factman says:

      Simon, not James, sorry

  2. Gareth says:

    I get 250MB with EE…..Whooooooooo…and it’s gone!

  3. JustAnotherFileServer says:

    Sony’s Xperia XZ Premium is not the only phone in the UK to support LTE Cat.16, the Samsung Galaxy S8 also does.

    1. Mark Jackson says:

      You are correct. I wonder why EE said Sony was the only one, maybe there’s some difference. Will pop them an email.

    2. Stephen says:

      I saw a comment somewhere saying that although the Samsung Galaxy S8 is a CAT 16 device, it is currently restricted to CAT 9. I’ll see if I can see any more info as to why.

  4. adslmax Real says:

    Nice one EE but need unlimited data for a change!

    1. James says:

      Yes 20GB gone in minutes using that speed!

  5. Olorin says:

    Pretty pointless and disappointing. Can’t think of a single usage case for those type of speeds on 4G. Not one. I’m 99.99% sure all customers will agree when I say I’d prefer the R&D budget for this tech to have gone into lowering data bundle costs instead, rather than making data more expensive and faster to consume.

    1. JustAnotherFileServer says:

      With those sorts of speeds, if prices for data bundles came down it would put a lot of ISP’s for home broadband out of business (if not all of them)

    2. DTMark says:

      Well, we don’t have any FTTP to speak of, that being the other technology capable of these speeds (or G.Fast but that’s never going to be performant for anything like the majority of lines connected to the average cabinet).

      So fixed-line FTTP could outperform this, but that is irrelevant since it could feasibly take many lifetimes to make that even vaguely commonly available, far from “widespread”, whereas this can be deployed “now”.

      Even if the average speeds are actually much more like 100 down and 40 up, that’s going to outperform fixed line outside cabled areas for as far as anyone can see into the future?

      It shouldn’t be this way, but, it is. 4G is hardly “revelatory”, it just demonstrates how poor fixed-line is.

    3. nucco says:

      You have to remember, with mobile being a shared medium, improving the speed in this manner improves the experience for everyone because it speeds up the race to idle, and it means there is theoretically more capacity available serving all devices in the vicinity.

      Demos like this are good for publicity, and no doubt, Sony and EE will gain a few sales from this, together with reinforced perception of being the fastest network. However, the underlying reason for upgrade is improved capacity in the network.

      Since non-shared mediums like land-line broadband don’t suffer these limitations, the rate of development in that segment seems lower.

  6. Jamie Simms says:

    The Samsung S8 in other countries can do Cat16 LTE and upto to Gigabit speeds.

    However for some strange reason Samsung decided that the UK model would have a lower rated processor which in turn means that device is only Cat9 in the U.K. This decision is very disappointing for U.K. Customers that such a high end device has been limited

    1. James says:

      Well it’s clearly a PR stunt by EE to get people to buy this “exclusive” handset, why does my service just outside of Cardiff slow down in the evenings when they have plenty of capacity to sort it by the looks of things!

  7. Dr D C Jackson says:

    Very impressive, but the reality is that few people, if anybody, needs such speeds. Surely it would be better if speeds of up to, say, 50Mbps were available to ALL EE 4G users. I currently get around 6Mbps on an EE 4G data only SIM, hardly enough to stream any video, yet it costs the same. This is all about technical one-upmanship and has little relevance to the average user.

    1. James says:

      I agree but today I got one of these phones on EE and I got 390mbps. I will do a screenshot and a TBB speedtest when I can

  8. Simon says:

    Well I now have this phone and I am 10 miles outside of Cardiff and I hit 227mbps all the time. Here’s one I just did


    I will do one in Cardiff centre tomorrow.

    1. Simon says:

      Got 452Mbps in Cardiff – IPv6 test done too. Will link soon

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