T-Mobile has achieved record peak download speeds of 1.175Gbps in a lab test it had conducted using commercially available LTE network equipment. The tests were conducted with the help of equipment suppliers Nokia and Qualcomm, which provided necessary tools like the AirScale Base Station and the Snapdragon X20 LTE Modem. Nokia's base station solution is an important component of its 4.9G technology portfolio, which offers reduced latency and improved quality of service over traditional LTE networks. Reduced latency could improve subscribers’ perception of data speeds while maintaining the quality of service of the carriers will be very important, once carriers begin deployment of 5G networks in densely populated areas. Meanwhile, the Snapdragon X20 LTE Modem, which is rumored to ship with the upcoming flagship chipset from Qualcomm, supports technologies that increase the achievable peak download and upload speeds. The modem is capable of achieving 1.2Gbps maximum download speeds, due to its support of Category 18 LTE and up to 12 simultaneous data streams. It can also record maximum upload transfer rates of 150Mbps since the modem is capable of 2x uplink carrier aggregation.
The test environment closely mimics what T-Mobile is currently deploying. The use of 4x4 Multiple Input, Multiple Output (MIMO) antennas increases data rates due to the simultaneous transmission and reception of radio signals, while also improving reliability in poor signal conditions. The company is also using 256-QAM for downloads, a protocol that enhances spectral efficiency by allowing for more bits to be delivered per transmission. Last but not the least, the 3x carrier aggregation increases the bandwidth available to subscribers, which should result in higher data speeds achieved by their handsets.
Aside from increasing the maximum download speeds, the carrier is also focused on improving the reach of its network. The carrier is now deploying its 600MHz LTE network in areas where the spectrum is not occupied by a TV station, with Cheyenne, Wyoming being the first area to receive the upgrade. Some of the key advantages of lower frequencies include much better building penetration and wider coverage per base station, making this spectrum useful in both urban and rural environments. It is still important to improve and expand existing LTE networks, as it will serve as an important and reliable fallback once 5G networks go live.