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The Need for Speed: Gigabit LTE and the Road to 5G

by Chris Taylor | 2月 01, 2017

LTE just keeps getting faster.

With LTE-Advanced, operators and phone OEMs added downlink carrier aggregation with two LTE component carriers to increase peak downlink (DL) speeds from 150 megabits per second (Mbps) to 300 Mbps.  Now, leading operators and mobile device OEMs are moving to 1 gigabit per second (Gbps) DL, commonly known at gigabit LTE, which offers a healthy subset of 3GPP Rel. 13 features that the industry has termed LTE Advanced Pro.  Expect to see rollouts this year and next of gigabit LTE from Telstra (Australia), T-Mobile US, Sprint, AT&T, NTT DoCoMo, KDDI, Softbank (Japan), MTS (Russia), EE (UK), Telefonica Spain, Telecom Italia, and SingTel (Singapore).

Why gigabit LTE?  Faster LTE benefits consumers by simply getting the job done faster, whether downloading on-demand videos or performing software updates to the operating system.  Mobile devices that make use of faster LTE free up network resources and increase capacity without an operator having to pay for more spectrum, and this even helps users that do not have the gigabit LTE-enabled devices.

When 5G starts to roll out in 2020, gigabit LTE will provide a nearly as fast foundation outside of initially limited 5G coverage areas.  And, gigabit LTE will whet consumers’ appetites for what 5G will offer, and should help operators and OEMs to better understand use cases and value-added services possible with higher speeds on the way to 5G.

What’s in it for OEMs?  Supporting gigabit LTE allows cellular device makers to offer differentiated, truly premium devices, and ride the promotional wave generated by operators offering the fastest networks in the world.  Top OEMs are already striking deals with operators working on gigabit LTE networks, and we expect to see the first gigabit LTE smartphones and tablets announced at MWC 2017 (February ‘17) if not sooner.  For example, rumors have circulated that the Samsung Galaxy S8 and Microsoft Surface Phone will support gigabit LTE.

Qualcomm first promoted the term gigabit LTE, to which the company holds no trademark, at MWC in February, 2016.  Since then, the industry has picked it up and adopted it.  Qualcomm offers the X16 radio modem and the more recently announced Snapdragon 835, a chipset with built-in X16 capabilities.  The SD 835 supports LTE Cat. 16 DL (979 Mbps) and Cat. 13 uplink (150 Mbps) using up to 4x carrier aggregation and 4x4 (DL) MIMO.  Competitors, still a bit behind, include MediaTek’s Helio X20 (LTE Cat. 6, 300 Mbps DL), Samsung’s Exynos 7420 (also Cat. 6), and Intel’s XMM 7360 (LTE Cat. 10).

Gigabit LTE has big ramifications for OEMs as well as RF front-end component makers.  We plan to explore what gigabit LTE means for the industry in future blogs and reports, so stay tuned.

For more about Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 835, companies with access privileges can read the following reports from Strategy Analytics:

CES 2017 Tablet Review: Innovative Components Kick off the New Year, SA Tablets & Touchscreen Strategies, Eric Smith.
Wintel Showing Cracks as Qualcomm Brings ARM and eSIM to Windows 10 [running on the Snapdragon 835]
, SA Tablets & Touchscreen Strategies, Eric Smith.
Strategic Competitor Intelligence-mobile, Report for the Period Ending: 9 December 2016,
Richard Guppy.

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