Nokia is saying that it will start to offer "4.9G" technology by the end of the year, which could deliver download speeds of up to 3 Gbit/s over the air.
So what is 4.9G anyway? Well, it's basically another incremental upgrade to 4G LTE, this time super-charged with large antenna arrays. (See Eurobites: Nokia Promises '4.9G' in 2017.)
In fact, I've actually already reported that Sprint Corp. (NYSE: S) is likely to be the first carrier to be able to deploy this technology. This is because it will deploy at 2.5Ghz and it is easier to develop "massive MIMO" antenna arrays at higher frequencies. (See Sprint to Be 1st in US With Massive MIMO?)
The operator already has 8 transmitter 8 receiver (8T8R) antennas in its network. "By Massive MIMO, I mean 64 transmitters and 64 receivers," says Nokia's VP of Networks Marketing Phil Twist.
Sprint's CTO John Saw is expecting to start testing these types of antennas later this year. (See Sprint Lights Fire Under High-Band 4G, Builds for 5G.)
Combining this with LTE-Advanced features like radio channel-bonding will boost performance. Nokia is expecting some carriers to use unlicensed LTE frequencies to bolster capacity too. (See 4.5G Sets High Bar for 5G.)
Nokia's Twist says pushing 4G to get "something close to 5G" speeds is important, because "the early implementations of 5G will be in islands." At the moment, three carriers in the US -- AT&T Inc. (NYSE: T), T-Mobile US Inc. and Verizon Communications Inc. (NYSE: VZ) -- have access to 28GHz licenses that could be used for 5G. None have the licenses for nationwide coverage yet. (See 5G in US: Will Spectrum Be the Speed Bump? and Islands in the Stream: Don't Expect Full mmWave 5G Coverage in US, Says Nokia.)
Therefore, LTE-A Pro and 4.9G networks are expected to be workhorse data networks long after 5G arrives.
Sprint will be the first US carrier to get 4.9G. Massive MIMO for lower-band cell networks could follow in 2018, but I haven't heard a definite date yet.
— Dan Jones, Mobile Editor, Light Reading