NetCom breaks LTE record with gigabit trial

Working with Huawei, it claims to be first to demonstrate LTE-Advanced Pro in real world conditions

In the build-up to commercial LTE, ‘4G’ was meant to equate to gigabit speeds, at least when stationary. That goal was pushed out to subsequent releases, but TeliaSonera’s Norwegian unit, Netcom, claims to have hit the magical 1Gbps rate using upcoming LTE-Advanced technologies.

The operator achieved “world record” download speeds of up to 1Gbps in an outdoor test in Norway’s capital Oslo, using next generation LTE enhancements, recently dubbed ‘LTE-Advanced Pro’ by the 3GPP.

The biggest contribution was made by the use of four-carrier aggregation, over 800 MHz, 1.8 GHz, 2.1 GHz and 2.6 GHz spectrum. TeliaSonera said in its statement: “To achieve the high speed, NetCom transmitted data over four frequency bands simultaneously, and what makes today’s test special is that NetCom only used frequency resources that are already available for mobile today.”

Huawei provided the networking equipment, and said this was the first real world demonstration since the 3GPP officially approved LTE-A Pro in October, branding it as a bridge between 4G and 5G. The standards body described this set of specifications as a “new LTE marker” which will be included in Release 13, due to be frozen in March 2016.

Huawei, which prior to that decision referred to the platform as 4.5G, has also announced trials with China Mobile, Softbank of Japan and HKT of Hong Kong. These will be targeting 1Gbps peak data rates too, as well as latency of about 10ms, down from the norm of 40ms with current LTE variants.

A select few operators have achieved gigabit LTE speeds, but only in tests rather than real world conditions, or by using technologies which are not yet fully ratified by the 3GPP.

“This is an important milestone towards next year’s expected commercial availability of 4.5G,” said the Chinese vendor in a joint statement with TeliaSonera, saying that the platform is designed to improve user experience for current applications and support new ones, especially those driven by emerging embedded devices such as virtual reality glasses and drones.

TeliaSonera said: “NetCom is the first operator in the world to take the LTE Advanced Pro technology out of the test laboratory and build a pilot outdoors under real life conditions.”

Netcom was also a pioneer in 4G – along with its parent, it was the first operator to introduce a commercial LTE network, and chose the sixth anniversary of that launch to announce its latest breakthrough. CTO Jon Christian Hillestad said: “We do not know exactly which speeds the future will require, but the future will require bandwidth, high speed and no delay in transfers. We are preparing for that reality with LTE Advanced Pro.”

Abraham Foss, CEO of TeliaSonera Norway, said that NetCom now provides more than 95% 4G population coverage in Norway. He said: “Today we have shown the future of mobile networks and a taste of what we can expect on our way to 5G.”

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