Here’s Why Carriers Are Pushing So Hard for Gigabit LTE

high speed

Aside from 5G, this seems to be one of the hottest topics in wireless right now. AT&T and T-Mobile have already achieved gigabit-class speeds in their tests of unlicensed LTE technologies. Both AT&T and Sprint have also announced work on four-channel carrier aggregation to take things to the next level. Even Verizon – which is known for playing its cards close to its chest – let slip in a device announcement earlier this week that it’s planning to deploy gigabit-class LTE service later this year.

As it turns out, there’s a good reason (or a few) carriers are pushing so hard on this.

According to Sherif Hanna, Qualcomm’s technical marketing expert for LTE and 5G modems, gigabit LTE offers benefits for both customers and carriers.

On the customer end of things, Hanna said gigabit LTE phones offer an improvement in user experience, mainly in terms of speed. While download speeds over 20 Mbps are considered good today, Hanna said gigabit LTE offers peak theoretical speeds of around 1 Gbps. Of course, the everyday user likely won’t see those speeds, but Hanna pointed to the Galaxy S8’s ability to deliver speeds above 150 Mbps as a prime example of what’s headed down the pipe. Those speeds will in turn enable new application experiences for users, like virtual and augmented reality on the go, he said.

But the obvious speed gains aside, carriers also stand to make significant network efficiency gains from gigabit LTE. As more gigabit-capable phones make their way onto the network, Hanna said network capacity will improve for all users because those handsets use network resources more efficiently. For instance, he said,gigabit LTE handsets have better spectral efficiency than their older peers. That means a gigabit LTE device only needs a fraction of the network resources to stream video required by a Category 6 or Category 9 LTE device. Even with modest gigabit handset penetration, that’s a big deal for carriers fighting to keep up with rising traffic demands.

All told, 26 operators – including all four Tier-1 carriers – in 18 countries are deploying gigabit LTE this year, Hanna said. Additionally, six gigabit LTE-capable handsets, such as Samsung’s Galaxy S8, Sony’s Xperia XZ, and Motorola’s moto z2 force edition, have already been announced publicly, with more expected before the end of the year.

Information gathered from: Wireless Week