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4G+ on EE - What you need to know

4th April 2018

4G+

As well as standard 4G, EE has been gradually rolling out its 4G+ network, and if you guessed that the plus means its faster you’d be right, but there’s more to it than that. Read on for all the details on what it is, how it works, where it’s available, how you can get it and more.

What is 4G+?

4G+ is another name for LTE-A, LTE-Advanced or 4.5G and it’s basically a faster version of 4G. It works through carrier aggregation, which allows 4G phones to receive data from multiple bands in the 4G spectrum.

So while standard 4G only uses one band at a time, 4G+ can combine two bands for increased speeds. In EE’s case it’s the 1800MHz and 2.6GHz bands which are being combined.

Is 4G+ the same as EE’s double speed 4G?

No. EE has been offering a service known as double speed 4G in many locations for a while now, but 4G+ is different and better. Double speed 4G doesn’t combine multiple spectrum bands, instead it allows customers to use more MHz from a single band, so while places with standard 4G might allow you to use 2 x 10MHz of 1800MHz spectrum, double speed would allow for 2 x 20MHz of spectrum.

But while it’s faster than standard 4G it’s not as fast as 4G+. Check out the next section for exact speed comparisons.

How fast is it?

4G+ theoretically offers peak download speeds of 300Mbps, though EE only promises speeds of up to 90Mbps. That’s far faster than even double speed 4G, which caps out at around 60Mbps, with typical download speeds of around 24-30Mbps.

Standard 4G meanwhile comes in at an average of around 20Mbps, so 4G+ is over four times faster. Or to put it another way a 30-minute HD video would take just around 2 minutes to download on 4G+, while it would take around 8 minutes to download with standard 4G.

Of course, it’s in a whole other league to 3G, which has average download speeds of around 3Mbps and even HSPA+ tends to be at around 6Mbps.

How much does it cost?

4G+ costs more than standard 4G as you might expect, but it comes as standard on all 4GEE Max plans.

Currently such plans are only available with a handset, so you can’t access 4G+ on new SIM-Only plans, but at the moment you can get a Pay Monthly 4GEE Max plan with a handset from around £33 (which also gives you 8GB of monthly data).

Does it have any other advantages over standard 4G?

Yes. It also increases network capacity in 4G+ locations, which means that not only will peak speeds be higher but you more consistently get a high speed, even when a lot of people are connecting at once. This is true for all EE customers, even those without a 4G+ compatible plan or handset.

Where is it available?

EE is doubling the capacity and increasing the speed of its London 4G network

Currently 4G+ is available throughout most of greater London, out as far as the M25 and in some cases beyond. Large pockets of it can also be found in other areas, including Birmingham, Torquay, Manchester, Liverpool, Sheffield and more, with most cities and many towns having at least partial 4G+ coverage, but in general these areas don't have comprehensive coverage.

How can I get it?

To get 4G+ you’ll need to be in an area which has coverage. You can use EE’s coverage checker for up to date 4G+ coverage information. Beyond that you also need a 4GEE Max contract (or an older 4GEE Extra plan) from EE and a 4G+ compatible handset. To be 4G+ compatible it needs to be Cat.6 or above, which currently limits you a little, but many high-end and mid-range phones launched over the last few years support it.

This may seem confusing as Cat.4 devices theoretically support speeds of up to 150Mbps, but in real world use they tend to cap out far lower than that at around 60Mbps, while Cat.6 devices (which theoretically support download speeds of up to 300Mbps) can potentially achieve real world speeds of over 150Mbps.

So choices are slightly limited at the moment if you’re not prepared to pay for a flagship, but you can expect many more Cat.6 enabled handsets to launch in the near future.

Do any other networks have 4G+?

No other UK networks have a service called 4G+, but Vodafone has upgraded its equipment in London, Birmingham and Manchester to allow for the same technology and speeds.

What does the future hold for 4G+?

EE is doubling the capacity and increasing the speed of its London 4G network

The network hasn’t confirmed its plans for the future of 4G+, but hopefully and presumably it will continue upgrading its 4G infrastructure across the rest of the UK, to allow 4G+ speeds nationwide.

Other networks are starting to get into the game too, with Vodafone bringing similar speeds to London, Birmingham and Manchester and we expect that it too will continue to expand its LTE-A coverage.

O2 and Three have stayed quiet on the 4G+ front but presumably they’re at least considering it and we wouldn’t be surprised if we see them start to roll out something similar at some point.

There’s also a good chance that MVNO’s will start to support 4G+ in the near future, particularly those running off the EE or Vodafone network, such as Virgin Mobile.

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