The British mobile operator EE turned on a very fast 4G/LTE network in London on Tuesday, with theoretical maximum speeds of 300Mbps. The network is initially live in the Tech City startup hub, where a selected user program will begin in December, and it will be deployed across the capital in 2014.
EE is calling this LTE-Advanced, which is a contentious term — telcos like to sound ahead of the pack, but in reality those implementing “LTE-Advanced” are generally just using a technique called carrier aggregation, which is part but not the whole of that particular tech evolution.
That said, EE is actually taking things a step further – the device that will first be used alongside this super-speedy new network is an 802.11ac Huawei Category 6 mobile router, which is fast in two ways. It connects to the new network with a Category 6 radio supporting data rates of up to 301.5Mbps, is the minimum you need to honestly claim the LTE-Advanced title. And it redistributes that 4G capacity to mobile phones and tablets using the new high-capacity 802.11ac Wi-Fi standard. Huawei says this is the first router of its kind, and it’s worth noting that EE chief Olaf Swantee announced the new network at a Huawei conference in London.
EE is of course also using carrier aggregation. Its current 4G services run on 1800MHz spectrum, of which EE has tons, and reach a theoretical maximum of 80Mbps. Mix that up with the 2.6GHz spectrum EE bought at auction earlier this year, and that’s how you get up to 300Mbps.
Over to Swantee:
“Our existing 4G network delivers incredible mobile data speeds and covers millions of people across the country, but we never stand still. We know that mobile data usage is going to keep increasing, and rapidly so.
“Our analysts predict that data usage will grow significantly over the next three years. In fact, our trend-mapping shows that data usage is set to rise by 750% in that period, as consumers and companies conduct more of their business and lives on-line.”
As mentioned at the start, this will only be available to selected users at the start. EE said the first commercially available mobile Wi-Fi units would go on sale in the summer of 2014, and LTE-Advanced-friendly handsets would follow later that year.