A lot of the buzz at the upcoming inaugural Mobile World Congress Americas show in San Francisco will be about forthcoming 5G services, but the next major technology development that will actually make a difference to users' everyday experience -- Gigabit LTE -- is now arriving on US shores and should also be a hot topic at the show.
So let's look at what will be different for users and where the US operators are at with Gigabit LTE. (See Gigabit LTE Takes to the Air.)
First things first
"Gigabit LTE" refers to the theoretical download peak speed that can be achieved by an LTE-Advanced Pro (LTE-A Pro) network that supports at least three bonded radio channels (3CA), using 256 QAM modulation and 4x4 multiple input and output (MIMO) antennas on the network side, and when a "Cat 16" LTE smartphone is put in a user's hands.
In reality, users with a compatible device should get between 100 Mbit/s and 300 Mbit/s on the downlink on a Gigabit LTE network. That's still three to six times faster than most devices on LTE today and will mean faster streaming on the move. (See When Is a Gig Not a Gig? When It's Gigabit LTE!)
With unlimited plans once again available from all the major carriers in the US, Gigabit LTE could also help to further pump up data usage on US mobile networks.
There are at least 10 devices that support Gigabit LTE currently available globally, six of which are available in the US. These include Samsung's Galaxy 8, 8+ and Note 8, as well as the Moto Z2 Play and LG's G6 and V30. (See Phone Review: Moto Z2 Play .)
Which towns and cities?
AT&T Inc. (NYSE: T) has Gigabit LTE up and running in Austin, Texas, and Indianapolis, and promises to have 20 cities online before the end of the year. Sprint Corp. (NYSE: S) has launched in New Orleans and is also promising more rollouts by year's end. T-Mobile US Inc. claims to have all the technical elements in place for Gigabit LTE now and says it will launch as it starts to bring 5GHz unlicensed spectrum into use on its 4G network this year. (See Sprint CTO: Don't Forget About Gigabit LTE, Surprise! AT&T Markets 4G Advances as '5G Evolution', Gigabit LTE: Sprint's MIMO Gras in New Orleans , Verizon & Friends Bust Through Gigabit LTE in the Lab and T-Mobile Says Its 600MHz LTE Sites Will Be 5G-Ready.)
A fly in the ointment? Apple is expected to unveil its new iPhone models in San Francisco on September 12. Whether these phones will support the latest and greatest in LTE technology, however, is a moot point, given Apple's ongoing legal disputes with chipmaker Qualcomm Inc. (Nasdaq: QCOM). (See US to Examine Qualcomm's Complaints Against Apple.)
What we're up to To help the industry get a better grasp of the opportunities in this area, Light Reading is hosting a workshop -- called The Path to 5G -- on all matters related to LTE-A Pro and Gigabit LTE in San Francisco on September 13. The event is timed to coincide with MWC Americas and will be held right across the street from the Moscone Center in the Marriot Marquis hotel.
At the breakfast, AT&T, Sprint and Boingo Wireless Inc. will be on hand to provide insight into Gigabit LTE strategies. Günther Ottendorfer, Sprint's charismatic chief operating officer of technology, is set to keynote, while Gordon Mansfield, vice president of RAN and device design at AT&T, and Derek Peterson, CTO at Boingo Wireless, will participate in a morning panel. Speakers from event sponsors Qualcomm, Ericsson AB (Nasdaq: ERIC) and Anritsu Corp. will also be actively contributing to the discussion.
For more information and to register, visit The Path to 5G workshop site .
— Dan Jones, Mobile Editor, Light Reading