Vodafone has to followed EE’s lead and launched carrier aggregation – which potentially doubles data bandwidth.
One of the clever things about 4G is that it can combine the bandwidth from different bits of spectrum and use them as a single pipe. EE has been selling this for some time and in our testing we found that it made a substantial difference over 1,000 tests conducted across 28 sites in London.
EE had an average speed of 21.7Mb/s to Vodafone’s 15.2Mb/s thanks to carrier aggregation. Vodafone was second in our testing.
In the network testing of Vodafone's carrier aggregation, the engineering teams saw speeds of 225Mbps, but of course they had the bandwidth to themselves. More relevant are the higher speeds for more users. There is no price premium; all 4G users will automatically get the double speed.
While EE aggregates over 1800 and 2600MHz, Vodafone aggregates 800Mhz and 2600MHz, which it argues will give its customers an advantage – as 800MHz spectrum travels further and penetrates better through walls to provide the best network coverage while 2.6GHz is ideally suited to smaller geographical areas of high population density. Vodafone is claiming it will have superior indoor coverage and this is where 70 per cent of customers use their mobile.
Carrier aggregation is the headline feature of LTE-A (LTE-Advanced), which also includes support for things like heterogeneous networks and some different encoding – so we can expect that to come as well.
Voda is rolling out the new tech from this month in Birmingham, Manchester and London and to other UK cities during the rest of this year and 2015. Some Samsung phones – notably the Galaxy Note and other Category 6 phones – support 800/2600 aggregation, and Vodafone is working on an approved list.
Vodafone research shows that customers value a consistent, high-speed 4G service in-building as well as outside and that they are increasingly streaming videos, emailing, accessing the web, as well as making and receiving calls from lunchtime through to early evening from their desk or sofa.
The roll-out of carrier aggregation is part of the £1bn Vodafone is spending on its network and services across the UK this year. It follows the nationwide provision of HD (High Definition) Voice technology and the Vodafone Rural Open Sure Signal programme, which is aimed at giving remote communities 3G coverage for the first time.
Now all Vodafone needs to do is make it work on trains... ®