When Is a Gig Not a Gig? When It's Gigabit LTE!

Dan Jones
News Analysis
Dan Jones, Mobile Editor
7/28/2017



So-called "Gigabit LTE" networks and devices will typically offer download speeds in the range of 100 Mbit/s to 300 Mbit/s rather than hitting a gigabit, but that's still about three times faster than many 4G phones on networks today.

Talking to Light Reading Friday afternoon, Qualcomm Inc. (Nasdaq: QCOM) talked about a network simulation system it has put together to judge the performance of Gigabit LTE (a.k.a. Cat 16) in the real world. The simulation is of ten cell sites, each with three sectors, simulating around 800 users with a variety of LTE devices on the network in a diversity of radio signal conditions.

This means the performance is more like real life, rather than the near-gigabit peak speeds achievable in the lab. Qualcomm says support for three-carrier (60MHz) spectrum-band aggregation; support of the 256-QAM modulation scheme; and 4x4 multiple input, multiple output (MIMO) antennas on the network are necessary for Gigabit LTE.

Under less than optimum radio conditions on a loaded network simulation, Qualcomm found that Gigabit LTE devices hit around 98 Mbit/s downloads. That's around three times faster than the cat 6 LTE device you might well be reading this article on now -- on the same network simulation.

Sherif Hanna, staff manager of technical marketing at Qualcomm, tells Light Reading that he expects "a range of 100 megabits a second to 300 megabits," to be about the norm for Gigabit smartphones and devices. The lower range will happen when users are doing things like FTP downloads, while higher speeds will be achieved with "bursty traffic," such as when a user is checking their Twitter feed, Hanna -- himself a heavy Twitter user -- notes.

There are six smartphones available worldwide and three in the US that support Gigabit LTE, as well as four other "data devices," such as hotspots. The most well-known at the moment are the Samsung Corp. S8 and S8+, with Qualcomm's Snapdragon 835 chip onboard.

Given the legal tussles between Apple Inc. (Nasdaq: AAPL) and Qualcomm, it is still an open question as to whether the iPhone 8 will use the Snapdragon and support "Gigabit LTE." (See Qualcomm Takes Q3 Pummeling From Apple.)

— Dan Jones, Mobile Editor, Light Reading

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