Japan’s newest mobile network makes U.S. LTE seem sluggish

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Japanese operator eAccess isn’t deploying any old LTE network. It’s going for broke, pushing the upper limits of the technology to launch a network that could theoretically support downlink speeds of 300 Mbps, according to TeleGeography. That makes Verizon’s LTE network, which can breach 25 Mbps on a good day, seem pokey.

Theoretical speeds are just that, theoretical. Just as T-Mobile’s 21 Mbps and 42 Mbps HSPA+ systems could never actually deliver those peak speeds in real world environments, eAccess customers won’t be downloading the human genome onto their smartphones. TeleGeography reported that subscribers to the carrier’s eMobile service can expect more realistic speeds of 75 Mbps with a 25 Mbps uplink tossed in for good measure. Considering that’s faster than most residential broadband connections, I doubt customers will complain.

In order to achieve that performance, eAccess had to max out the technical capabilities of today’s LTE standard (for the less acronym averse, that’s 3GPP Release 8), a luxury that many global operators don’t share. eAccess is building its network over 40 MHz of spectrum, while Verizon’s and AT&T’s rollouts use 20 MHz or less.

EAccess also has to cram four LTE antennas into its devices, while we only use two antennas stateside. It’s highly unlikely eAccess will be able to incorporate this technology into smartphones. Double antennas mean double the power consumption, but they also create a problem for spatial design. Those antennas will need room to stretch, otherwise the network won’t find them. That probably means the full capabilities of the network will only be available to larger devices such as laptops or tablets. Or if eAccess sticks to its wireline roots, it may use it as residential broadband service. A smartphone with a 75 Mbps connections is overkill anyway.

When can we expect networks like this in the U.S.? Well, the operators are working on incorporating technologies from the next wireless standard, LTE-Advanced, into their current networks. LTE-Advanced promises speeds as high as 1 Gbps for stationary devices, but operators don’t have the spectrum to implement the full capabilities of the standard at once. We’ll likely see more conservative LTE-Advanced deployments that may well give eAccess’ super-LTE network a challenge in a dead heat.

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