The battle between Vodafone and EE is hotting up, with each network rapidly working to enhance their respective networks to offer faster speeds and greater capacity.
At this point in time, Three and O2, each with very limited capacity and a desperate need to refarm 3G spectrum to stand any chance of keeping up must be feeling quite dejected.
Today, EE announced the newly launched Sony Xperia XZ Premium, its first handset with Cat 16 4G support (aka Gigabit LTE) was used successfully for download speeds in excess of 400Mbps.
429.95Mbps to be exact.
The service is now rolling out in Cardiff and London, with Birmingham, Manchester and Edinburgh to follow, and is achieved through carrier aggregation of 30MHz 1800MHz and 35MHz of 2.6GHz spectrum. The carriers utilise 4×4 MIMO, plus 256QAM on 2.6GHz.
The use of more carriers will eventually lead to even greater speeds, up to a theoretical ‘gigabit’ (1000) Mbps, although in practice this isn’t likely to be achieved outside of lab conditions.
Meanwhile, Vodafone has been achieving speeds just shy of 400Mbps using carrier aggregation over 800, 1400 2100 and 2600MHz bands, also using 4×4 MIMO and 256QAM on some carriers.
All of this doesn’t alter the current roll out plans for 4G in the rest of the country, and as time goes on many of these locations will be upgraded to offer the higher speeds too.
If you’re wondering why this isn’t about the Samsung Galaxy S8 and S8+ doing similar speeds, I direct you to my earlier article about why the UK S8 is limited to just Cat 9, for reasons still unknown. It seems Samsung buyers will have to wait for the Note 8 instead.
Later this year, you can expect more phones to arrive with Cat 16 4G modems, so it may be something to consider when choosing a new phone.
Also, if you’re thinking this is just grandstanding on the part of operators, think again. There are many benefits in utilising the latest modems, antennas and encoding. It means greater capacity, which should mean a more consistent service at all times.
EE states that on upgraded sites, users should rarely fall below 50Mbps. That might be considered OTT for a lot of phone usage, but if you need to download an app, backup files or perhaps download a film before boarding a plane, good download (and upload) speeds are vital.
Sherif Hanna at Qualcomm wrote about the recent launch of Gigabit LTE in Australia and all the benefits that come with. It’s an interesting read to counter the tired old argument that speed isn’t important.
More info: EE Newsroom