LIVE FROM HUAWEI GLOBAL MOBILE BROADBAND FORUM 2013: UK operator EE this morning announced the switch-on of what it claims is “the fastest 4G mobile network in the world”, which it said can reach speeds of 300Mb/s – although it is still some way from a commercial launch.
Initially, the reach of the network is limited – covering only London’s Tech City area – and is only open to selected partners.
Noting that the company’s engineers, along with those of its partner Huawei, had seen speeds of up to 296Mbit/s in recent days, Olaf Swantee (pictured), CEO of EE, said: “To our knowledge, that is an unmatched mobile speed in a live environment.”
At this stage, there also appears to be issues related to LTE-Advanced device availability – in a statement, EE said that the network “becomes commercially available when compatible devices launch from mid-2014.”
EE will conduct its Tech City pilot from December using a router from Huawei, which can enable devices with 802.11ac WiFi to connect at speeds “as high as 200Mb/s”. It said that it expects the first commercially available mobile Wi-Fi units will be introduced next summer, again supplied by Huawei, with handsets to follow in the second half of the year.
“The challenge for the smartphone providers is the heat, apparently…it’s not very good to have big phones with fans everywhere,” Swantee observed. EE is working with device vendors to help bring devices to market, he said.
The company is using LTE-Advanced technology to enable carrier aggregation, bringing together 20MHz of 1800MHz spectrum and 20MHz of 2.6GHz frequencies. While it has trumpeted its high-speed LTE network previously, this has been achieved using in-band carrier aggregation using only its 1800MHz spectrum.
Swantee said that despite the advanced state of its existing 4G network, there is still “a lot of heavy lifting” to do to support LTE-Advanced. “It’s a difficult technology to rollout. We will not have to renew every site, but we have to do a lot on the existing sites in terms of equipment, antennas, and the further development of transmission”.
In a statement, the operator said that its LTE-Advanced network will be rolled out across London throughout 2014, and that “more features will be trialled throughout 2014 to extend EE’s global network leadership”.