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2.1Gbps speeds over LTE? That's not a typo, EE's already done it

Before you get excited, there is a snag...

MBBF2016 Engineers at EE recently managed to get speeds of 2.1Gbps out of a trial LTE deployment, according to Tom Bennett, the British telco’s director of network services and devices.

“Correct me if I’m wrong but that’s the fastest anyone’s got LTE to go anywhere,” Bennett told the world’s tech press at Huawei’s Global Mobile Broadband Forum on Friday.

He did add that this was an engineering test rather than a realistic demonstration of speeds that consumers are likely to see soon, but the point had been made.

Explaining how EE managed to get speeds over LTE of up to 400Mbps in Wembley Stadium, Bennett mentioned how Huawei’s Smart Cities initiative had been a helping hand. EE and Huawei have been working together for the last five years, he said.

“Are we doing this as just a tech or for a good reason?” asked Bennett. The answer, of course, was that it was for a good reason: “New customers, the real techie type customers, they’re using their service and using the higher order bands, leaving the base bands free. It helps everybody keeping the tech fresh.”

As the “technical design authority”, in his own words, for the Emergency Services Networks contract that EE has with the UK emergency services, Bennett was scathing about the state of the current Tetra equipment used by police, ambulance and fire brigades, comparing it to Windows 95 - and, naturally, praising the “new revenue for the mobile industry” that moving to LTE-based networks for emergency services brings around the world.

Bennett also revealed the extent of EE’s coverage of the UK is around 72 per cent by geographic area - adding that the telco hopes to increase this to “92 or 95 per cent” - and that its service obligation is for coverage of public roads rather than ticking off map squares. This is no surprise to those in the know, but in the eternal battle between hyperbolic coverage-by-population marketing spiel and the reality of falling back to patchy 2G in rural areas, it’s no bad thing to have it out there in public.

“I look at where we’re going, into 5G and ubiquitous reliable coverage... we do need to cover the whole country if we’re going to upsell this,” admitted Bennett. “We’re looking at other technologies too, such as satellite backhaul.”

In the future Bennett sees mobile operators targeting the AI and robotics markets: “You’ve got a reliable, fast, robust connection and it has access to all that computing power in the cloud. AI is one of the growth industries as we look at that coming together.”

So much for not just being the dumb pipe. ®

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