July 11, 2014

What’s the progress on 4G LTE-A (4G LTE Advanced)?

4G LTE Advanced

4G LTE-Advanced is on its way to London

4G LTE is well and truly here. Every major network has begun a rollout and some are a long way through their rollouts, with EE in particular having brought it to well over half the country. But even greater speeds are possible, thanks to something called LTE-A (the ‘A’ being for advanced).

You might think the networks would wait till they’d expanded their 4G coverage before looking into LTE-A, but not necessarily. Late last year we reported that EE was bringing an LTE-Advanced network with download speeds of up to 300Mbps to London’s Tech City, while planning to expand it and make it commercially available during the latter half of 2014.

It’s 2014 now, so what’s going on? Well, back at MWC Olaf Swantee, EE’s CEO, claimed that “we will have 300Mbps in London. First we will have the city centre covered, London south circular. That will probably be by the end of the summer.”

That was a while ago though and there’s no visible sign of a 4G LTE-A network in London or anywhere else in the UK.

The good news is we now have an update, the bad news is that there’s seemingly been a bit of a delay. V3.co.uk revealed that during the recent EE and Qualcomm Tech City event, EE director of network services and devices Tom Bennett confirmed that “at the moment we’re looking for LTE-Advanced and 300Mbps speeds to be covering London by Q1-Q2 next year.”

Which is around six months later than the previous estimate. Nevertheless it is seemingly still coming and it’s a good thing too, as EE predicts that data usage will rise by 750% over the next three years and according to cbronline.com Bennett claims that by 2020 there will be over 50 billion connected devices in the world with the average consumer having 27 connected device and that 4G connections will become the default for all connected devices over the next few years.

Given that the internet of things is starting to take off those numbers seem believable, as we won’t just be looking at smartphones and computers, but smart watches, cars and even fridges too. So having mobile internet that’s around three to four times faster than even current 4G connections could certainly come in handy.

EE is ahead of the game here too, at least in the UK, as no other UK networks have said anything about a 4G LTE-A rollout. We wouldn’t be surprised if they’re planning things behind closed doors but no announcements have been made. Then again, O2, Vodafone and Three are still playing catch-up with normal 4G, so until they’ve got wider UK coverage with that it might be premature to look into the advanced version of the technology.

The other networks are bound to latch on to 4G LTE-A sooner or later though, after all, it’s the next step and while they haven’t done anything about it on UK soil, the German branch of Vodafone has already carried out small scale LTE-A tests, as has Telefonica (O2’s parent company) according to ZDNet, so hopefully once they decide they’re ready for LTE-A it will be a relatively smooth and rapid rollout.

More on 4G LTE-Advanced here.

  • Russ

    The only reason it doesn’t surprise me that EE are already working on VoLTE is because they actually need it much more than Vodafone or O2 due to them rolling out their core 4G network on re-farmed 1800MHz spectrum previously used for their 2G network. EE’s 2100MHz-only 3G coverage would not be comprehensive enough to provide the same level of voice call coverage as their current 1800MHz 2G network.

    Conversely, Vodafone and O2 are rolling out their core 4G network on previously unused 800MHz and 2600MHz spectrum, leaving them with their legacy 900MHz spectrum to continue using for 2G and 3G. This situation lends itself to them eventually shutting-down their 2G networks, using all of their legacy 900MHz for 3G which can carry data AND voice, and use their 800MHz/2600MHz frequency just for data, so no-need for VoLTE.

  • Russ

    Apologies, my last comment was supposed to be on the VoLTE article, not the LTE-Advanced :-/