EE, Qualcomm and Sony make a play for ‘Gigabit LTE’

At an event in Wembley stadium EE used its live network to demonstrate LTE on steroids using a Sony Xperia XZ Premium smartphone with a Qualcomm Snapdragon 835 chip.

The term gigabit LTE is a bit of a stretch as the absolute maximum theoretical throughput possible with EE’s secret blend of 3 carrier aggregation, 4×4 MIMO and 256-QAM is still just short of that. And so it turned out on the day, with the highest demonstrated speed being in the 700-800 Mbps range.

wembley sony speedtest

That’s still a hell of a lot higher than most people’s fixed-line broadband though, and even your correspondent’s Samsung Galaxy S7 (on EE but no Qualcomm inside, sorry) managed to use those three carriers to top 300 Mbps. So while the telecoms industry’s marketing departments will always be inclined to chase arbitrary performance metrics prematurely, there was undoubtedly some hefty bandwidth on show.

wembley phone speedtest

“Gigabit LTE is not simply about headline data download speeds, it’s about bringing real-life benefits to the everyday user, regardless of the device they are using right now and forms the first major step towards 5G,” said Roberto Di Pietro, VP of Biz Dev at Qualcomm. “It is exciting to see the culmination of all these technologies coming to life in Europe, as the first commercial devices capable of delivering this incredible user experience start to enter the industry.”

EE has been a Wembley Stadium sponsor for a while and often uses that resource to demo its latest network goodness in a smaller environment before full roll-out. Right now, apart from Wembley only London’s Tech City (otherwise known as Silicon Roundabout) and Cardiff have all the latest network bells and whistles but it will be rolling out to other major cities over the next year or so.

This kind of tech is only going to be used in cities because a) there is less need for it in rural areas and b) there isn’t the spectrum available to triple down on the carrier aggregation in this way. In terms of the speeds-and-feeds part of the story this is also being positioned as pre-5G, as additional future performance gains will largely be achieved by further increments of carrier aggregation and the like.

For Qualcomm events such as this serve to give it a chance to talk up its modem leadership and promote its latest SoCs, such as the Snapdragon 835. For Sony, which has refocused on the premium end of the smartphone food chain, this is a chance to claim technology leadership and restore some lustre to its struggling smartphone brand.

For end-users, getting 4G speeds well in excess of what even fibre broadband offers should be a significant benefit. The chances of anyone ever needing a fraction of the headline 1 Gbps download speed on their phone is pretty remote but it’s still cool to have the option.

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