While 5G suffers the usual, protracted birth pangs, unfashionable Gigabit LTE is going to be how your mobile bits are delivered for ages.
CCS Insight notes that 43 operators have either deployed Gigabit LTE already or are in trials to do so. T-Mobile says it has deployed the three key technologies needed for Gigabit LTE – 4x4 MIMO, 256 QAM and three-carrier aggregation – in 430 markets already and twice that on LTE-Advanced, the precursor. Not to be outdone, Verizon claims to have Gigabit LTE ready for 560 markets.
LTE-Advanced and Advanced Pro provide the next iterations of 4G, while the endless 5G gabfests continue.
The insatiable demand for mobile data, and a comparatively healthy market place, means operators can't hang around.
Mobile World Congress this year saw the first demos of Gigabit LTE, which requires many moving parts: lots of new small cell locations, the use of unlicensed spectrum for the downlink, and the fascinating use of millimetre wave (MMW) portion of the spectrum. Yes, the same technology used to humiliate you at airports has a more benign use in urban data transmission.
Qualcomm's Snapdragon X16, built into the current range of flagships using the Snapdragon 835 SoC, supports 4x4 MIMO, 256 QAM and three-carrier aggregation.
In its predictions, CCS Insight highlights problems as 5G condenses from vapourware into a steady drizzle:
Tough planning laws restrict vital access to new sites, while many urban areas struggle to support the millions of small cells needed to enable commercial services. Widespread access to fibre backhaul needed for 5G only exacerbates the problem.
Operators have no shortage of options. T-Mobile says its gigabit trials have hit speeds of over 600Mbit/s. ®