November 4, 2014

4G LTE Advanced – How much progress are the networks making?

4G LTE Advanced

The UK’s 4G LTE-Advanced pecking order

LTE Advanced, aka LTE-A or 4.5G or 4G+, is the next generation of 4G, promising theoretical download speeds of up to 300Mbps. In reality you’re not likely to see anything quite that fast, but real world speeds are likely to be around 42Mbps, which is still very fast indeed.

LTE-A is here already, at least on some networks and in some places. Read on to see what each network’s progress is and far it has reached out.

Vodafone 4G LTE Advanced

While EE looked like it was leading the pack for a while, Vodafone may have overtaken it, at least in terms of LTE-A.

The network announced that it rolled out LTE Advanced in October this year, with London, Manchester and Birmingham switched on so far.

Its upgraded network should gradually start arriving in other parts of the UK throughout the rest of 2014 and into 2015, though given that Vodafone is still far from finished with its standard 4G rollout we wouldn’t expect nationwide LTE-A coverage for at least a couple of years.

EE 4G LTE Advanced

EE was the first UK network to show signs of developing an LTE-A service. It’s already brought LTE-A to London’s Tech City and certain areas of Greater London, but it’s not seemed in any hurry to expand its coverage.

However the network has announced that it will be bringing LTE-A to the rest of London by the summer of 2015, so Londoners shouldn’t have too much longer to wait. EE has branded LTE-A as 4G+.

There’s no word yet on if or when the rest of the country will get its LTE-A service though, so we’re inclined to say that Vodafone seems to have taken the lead here.

O2 4G LTE Advanced

O2 has so far made no announcements regarding LTE-A availability in the UK. However its parent company, Telefonica, has tested it in a lab setting in Germany, so it’s clearly working on the technology.

We’d be surprised if O2 let its rivals get too far ahead so expect at least an announcement of its plans in the next few months. For now we can only assume that O2 is substantially behind both Vodafone and EE when it comes to a 4.5G roll out.

Three 4G LTE Advanced

Three might be even further behind as it hasn’t even announced that it’s testing the technology let alone rolling it out on a wider scale and as Three was the last network to launch a 4G service and has the least coverage of the four major networks it seems likely that it will also be the last to launch LTE-A. We’re sure it’s coming, but don’t expect it before late next year at the earliest.

Giffgaff 4G LTE Advanced

Giffgaff has made no announcements regarding any LTE-A plans, but that’s no surprise given that it’s an MVNO. If and when it launches LTE-A will be dependent on O2 rolling it out, so until O2 does Giffgaff can’t and won’t.

Even once O2 has a commercial LTE-A network there’s no guarantee that Giffgaff will leverage it and it will almost certainly not make immediate use of it.

Tesco Mobile 4G LTE Advanced

Tesco Mobile is in pretty much exactly the same boat as Giffgaff, because it too is an O2 MVNO. One thing in Tesco Mobile’s favour is that it was quicker to launch a 4G service, in fact Giffgaff’s 4G service is still in its trial stages even now, so based on that it seems likely that Tesco Mobile will launch LTE-A first.

But we still wouldn’t expect it anytime soon and it certainly won’t happen before O2 launches its LTE-A network.

Virgin Mobile 4G LTE Advanced

Virgin Mobile is also an MVNO but its LTE-A prospects are better than either Giffgaff or Tesco Mobile’s, because while they both use O2, Virgin Mobile uses EE.

So it’s still dependent on EE having a live LTE-A network, but with that likely to be the case from next summer, at least in London, we may see an LTE-A service from Virgin Mobile sometime next year too.

Of course even when EE has one it doesn’t necessarily mean Virgin Mobile will and the network has made no specific announcements, but we live in hope.

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