LONDON -- Huawei Global Mobile Broadband Forum -- UK mobile operator EE has deployed, activated, and tested LTE-Advanced base stations in two sites in London ahead of service trials in December. It plans to expand its LTE-A coverage across the whole of the capital city in the coming months, the operator's CEO Olaf Swantee announced in London Tuesday.
But while the operator is claiming to have the fastest LTE-Advanced network in the world, with potential downlink speeds of 300 Mbit/s, no one can actually use it in anger -- yet. (See Euronews: EE Claims 4G World Record.)
EE, in collaboration with Huawei Technologies Co. Ltd., has upgraded to LTE-A to cover the immediate area where the Chinese vendor is holding its London customer conference, and also in the so-called Tech City area of the capital, where digital startups are setting up shop. Swantee said that during the past few days, EE and Huawei technicians had achieved actual downlink speeds of 296 Mbit/s over the LTE-A connections.
The next step is to set up user trials in Tech City, although this will involve fixed routers for devices, since the relevant smartphones are not yet available. "The challenge for the device-makers is the heat that is generated in the smartphones by such high-speed broadband services," noted the CEO, "and it's not really possible to build them with [cooling] fans," quipped the Dutchman.
Those trials will start in December, after which EE will roll out LTE-Advanced across London, a process that involves the deployment of new antennas as well as network upgrades. The operator expects to have mobile WiFi devices that can hook up to the new network by the second quarter of 2014. Smartphones (that don't overheat) should be available during the second half of next year.
In the meantime, EE already has more than 1 million regular LTE customers and has upgraded its network to enable downlink speeds of up to 30 Mbit/s. It is now offering its 4G service in 131 towns and cities across the UK, with Bath and Chester to be added this week. (See EE Feels the Squeeze in Q3 , Q&A: EE Evolves Its 4G LTE Strategy, and Euronews: EE Sees 4G Take-up Double in Q2.)
Is there really that much of a need to rush into LTE-A? Swantee says user demands, especially from business customers, are driving the strategy, citing consumer and business video as well as heavy-duty business applications such as access to ERP systems as drivers for faster speeds and greater capacity.
But it's not just about business customer demands. "It's not just for technofreaks. Data usage is set to rise by 750 percent during the next three years," noted Swantee.
—Ray Le Maistre, Editor-in-Chief, Light Reading