I have been traveling around the world quite a bit lately, because a lot of changes are happening in the wireless industry. Carriers around the world are upgrading their 4G LTE networks to 4G LTE Advanced Pro, which is capable of delivering Gigabit-class LTE speeds. Yes, 5G is coming very soon, and we’re starting to see pre-5G news and announcements, but there have been even more Gigabit LTE announcements. In fact, actual launches have already happened in Sydney, Australia and New Orleans, Louisiana just to name the places that I’ve been. Carriers are improving their networks for many reasons; one of them is that the improvements that come with Gigabit LTE will lead us to understanding 5G better. Part of those lessons will include the use cases for these faster, more efficient, network technologies.
Gigabit LTE and 4G will help make 5G possible in the early days with broader coverage than existing 5G networks and compatibility with more devices and networks. So far, 15 carriers in 11 countries are already deploying Gigabit LTE networks. There are currently 47 carriers around the world looking at, testing or in the process of deploying Gigabit LTE networks, making demand for Gigabit LTE devices by both those carriers and consumers even greater. Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 835 is currently the only smartphone processor with this capability and is found in devices like Samsung Electronics’ newly announced Galaxy S8 and S8+ as well as the upcoming unannounced Motorola device I saw working in New Orleans.
These new devices and their upcoming brethren are going to usher in a new era of user experiences and performance unseen in the past. To better understand this, I spent time using devices on live Gigabit LTE networks like Telstra ’s network in Australia. Granted, this was only over 48-hours, but I brought a lot of devices and tested not only regular day-to-day usage of common devices and technologies today, but also future use cases that include virtual reality and augmented reality. More about my testing experience on Gigabit LTE is in my research brief A Glimpse into the 5G Future: 48 Hours with Gigabit LTE. While this testing doesn’t fully demonstrate the capabilities of Gigabit LTE, it does give a glimpse of what is both possible with Gigabit LTE and a taste of what we could see in the future with 5G.