EE has finally launched LTE-A in London and it’s capable of delivering average download speeds of 90Mbps.
The key word there is average – that’s what most customers should be getting with a Cat 6 LTE device on EE’s advanced network.
That’s faster than the top download speeds – 80Mbps – of the FTTC (Fibre to the Cabinet) connections currently being rolled out up and down the country by BT’s network division Openreach.
The nature of FTTC means that most people won’t even get speeds close to 80Mbps – unless they live within spitting distance of a green street cabinet.
For this reason, ISPs that sell FTTC services – Sky, Zen, BT, not to mention EE itself – all advertise the top download speed possible at 76Mbps. Ofcom rules state that the advertised download speed must be available to at least ten per cent of customers.
Tom Bennett, EE’s director of network services and devices said: “In line with all of Ofcom’s and the ASA’s regulations, our average speed will be ‘up to’ 90Mbps. That means that a good percentage of customers can get that speed at any time of day.”
Bennett explained that peak download speeds most customers can expect to enjoy will be closer to the 150Mbps mark – in other words, not far off the top speeds Virgin Media customers can enjoy.
In controlled lab environments, speeds of up to 300Mbps have been recorded. While it’s possible that you’ll occasionally get something above 150Mbps, it’s unlikely that you’ll ever get 300Mbps on your phone, tablet or MiFi.
In good conditions we’re told that you can expect upload speeds of 30Mbps with EE 4G. With latency that ranges between 40-80ms (in our experience) we’re be tempted to ditch our regular fixed line broadband service for this.
But with monthly data caps of 25GB and 50GB on £30 and £50/month mobile broadband plans we’re perhaps not quite ready to cut the cord.
For those times when congested coffee shop WiFi isn’t cutting it, EE’s LTE-A will be a powerful new weapon in the arsenal of hotdeskers, students and business and media types across the capital.
That’s fine and dandy for well-heeled Londoners but when are these blazingly-fast speeds coming to the rest of the UK?
Today, 150 mobile sites across London are being turned on, bringing faster speeds to Old Street, Shoreditch, Soho, Southbank, Westminster and Kensington. By the end of the year a further 300 sites will be turned on.
By June 2015, all of Greater London should be covered and EE will have begun rolling out LTE-A to the UK’s biggest cities.
Birmingham, Liverpool and Manchester will be amoung the first places outside of London to get a taste of LTE-A, but beyond that, EE isn’t saying where else it plans to go yet.
What is 4G+? EE’s name for LTE-Advanced
Taking cues from European industry players including Swisscom, SFR and Bouygues, EE is calling it’s LTE-A service ‘4G+’. This is to differentiate it from earlier versions of 4G which could only provide average download speeds of around 20-30Mbps, and ‘double speed’ 4G which delivers top speeds of 60Mbps.
Unlike Vodafone which has opted for ‘4.5G’ as a marketing name for LTE-A, EE deliberately picked a non-numerical name for this 4G step change.
Bennett said: “This is not half way to 5G. There’s a lot of mileage left in 4G technologies. We still have a long way to go.”
Releases from industry standardisation group 3GPP suggest that 4G download speeds could be even faster. Next year EE will kick off a trial of a 400Mbps service in Wembley Stadium as it rolls out 4G+ across the capital.
As for who can get 4G+ speeds today, well, the bad news is if you’ve already got a 4G phone, chances are it’s got a Cat 4 LTE antenna, which means you’re not invited to the 4G+ party. Only a handful of devices on the market right now can access such speeds and these are the Samsung Galaxy Alpha, the Note 4, the revamped Galaxy S5 LTE-A and the Huawei E5786.
The good news is the launch of 4G+ will be not unlike several new lanes opening up on a motorway. EE’s 4G network becoming less congested, which will benefit every 4G punter, whatever device they’ve got – see our ‘What is Cat 6 LTE?’ feature for more information.
In the meantime, EE continues to expand its regular 4G network. Today also sees the launch of 4G in 19 new towns. These are:
EE 4G is available to over 75 per cent of the UK population and the network wants to have 90 per cent coverage by the end of the year.
By that time, 50 per cent of the population should also be able to get double speed 4G.