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Fastest LTE speed will be out of reach for most users

Mikael Ricknäs | Nov. 28, 2014
Many mobile operators simply don't have enough radio spectrum to provide users with such speed.

Operators will be able to use carrier aggregation to increase upload speeds to 100 Mbps, as well.

However, what the latest equipment can do and what mobile operators actually install are two completely different things.

Carrier aggregation hasn't set the world on fire yet. Out of 331 commercially launched LTE networks just 21 had been upgraded by the middle of September, according to Alan Hadden, president at industry organization GSA (Global mobile Suppliers Association). By the end of the next year that number will be approaching 100 networks, he said.

A lack of smartphones compatible with carrier aggregation hasn't helped the technology's progress. That has slowly started to change with the launch of products such as Samsung's Galaxy Alpha and Note 4, and Huawei's Ascend Mate 7, which use two channels to get to 300 Mbps.

There have been some recent disappointments, though. The Moto X from Motorola doesn't support carrier aggregation and Apple's new iPhones use a version of carrier aggregation that tops out at 150 Mbps instead of 300 Mbps. They can combine two 10 MHz channels, instead of two times 20 MHz. The latter omission was especially surprising since Apple's smartphones can handle more bands than any competing product. That might not be an issue today, but for users that plan to keep their phone for at least two years it will be.

Looking at the chipsets that will power next year's smartphones, those disappointments will quickly become a thing of the past.

Qualcomm isn't just laying the groundwork for making carrier aggregation a standard feature on high-end smartphones. The Snapdragon 210 will make it possible to build more affordable smartphones with carrier aggregation, but users will have to make do with a maximum speed of 150 Mbps. The first products, allowing devices to combine two 10 MHz channels, are expected to arrive during the first half of next year.

 

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