Back in February, we unveiled the Qualcomm Snapdragon X16 LTE modem, the first—and thus far, only—commercially announced modem to support Gigabit Class LTE speeds. At that time, we said that we expected a Gigabit Class LTE device and network to be available before year’s end.
I’m pleased to say we’ve achieved that goal.
Today, Qualcomm Technologies, along with Telstra, Ericsson, and NETGEAR, announced the world’s first Gigabit Class LTE mobile device and network. The device is the NETGEAR Mobile Router MR1100, which uses the Snapdragon X16 LTE modem designed to deliver Gigabit Class LTE connectivity as well as Qualcomm Wi-Fi solutions designed to achieve Gigabit Wi-Fi.
The NETGEAR Mobile Router MR1100 takes advantage of several LTE Advanced technologies, including 3x carrier aggregation, 4x4 MIMO, and 256-QAM, which together are engineered to boost download speeds up to a peak of 979 Mbps. It also uses the Qualcomm 802.11ac solution with 2x2 MIMO and dual-band support for overall Wi-Fi throughput of up to 1Gbps. The dual-band support is designed to allow the router to serve devices on both 2.4- and 5-GHz bands simultaneously, so that more Wi-Fi devices can take advantage of the fastest speeds available.
Telstra is expected to make the NETGEAR MR1100 available to its leading customers in the next few months. The mobile router will operate on Telstra’s Gigabit-ready network, which is enabled by Ericsson.
The four companies have been working very closely over the past several months to make this possible. It’s a significant achievement and a milestone for the entire mobile industry. Gigabit Class speed was one of the foundational promises of 4G technology. Today, that promise is realized.
What the past 10+ years of mobile broadband have shown us that Internet speeds have a direct impact on the quality of existing mobile experiences, in addition to supporting entirely new ones.
Consider, for example, a mobile experience that we take for granted today: streaming HD video over cellular networks. It simply wouldn’t be possible without the sustained Internet speeds made available by successive generations of LTE technology. Every time we increase the speeds of Internet connections, app developers figure out new and interesting ways to take advantage of them.
This is one reason we cannot overstate the importance of Gigabit Class LTE to the evolution of the mobile experience. With Gigabit Class LTE devices and networks, we cross a threshold of performance that could radically change mobile applications. And we’re not talking about the peak theoretical speeds that no one will ever experience in the real world. We mean the actual speeds we expect these devices to sustain in the real world.
Qualcomm Technologies recently conducted an extensive simulation of a Gigabit Class LTE network, using a mix of LTE devices that ranged from basic (LTE Category 4 with peak speeds of 150 Mbps) to incredibly advanced (LTE Category 16 with Gigabit Class peak LTE speeds). The simulations have shown that average throughputs for the Cat 16 devices range between ~112 Mbps to ~307 Mbps, depending on traffic type. And speeds could be as high as ~533 Mbps for 90th percentile users. Compare that to today’s speeds—according to Ookla’s Speedtest Market Report, the average mobile Internet download speed in the United States was around 19.61 Mbps as of August 2016.
What happens when we cross over 100 Mbps and get as high as 500 Mbps in real-world speeds? A lot actually. At these throughputs, for example, the speeds of the LTE connection begin to approach—and, at times, even surpass—the random read speed of flash storage on some current premium tier smartphones. Suddenly, it could be faster to retrieve a file from the cloud rather than open it from local storage. That changes how developers think about the role that the cloud backend plays in their app or service.
Another example is 360-degree VR video. Today, 360-degree video is readily available at 4K resolution, but only at 30fps and sometimes even lower. That would provide a decent viewing experience, but it’s not immersive by any means. To achieve that, the frame rate would need to be pushed up to 60fps and, ideally, even 120fps. All of a sudden, the data rate requirements climb significantly from ~45 Mbps to ~68 Mbps for 60fps, and up to an estimated ~103 Mbps for 120fps. But the payoff is truly immersive 360-degree video that can be incredibly smooth and transport the viewer.
It’s clear that we need Gigabit Class LTE to continue the evolution of mobile experiences and make them more compelling than ever before. But it goes beyond just LTE networks. In fact, it’s our belief that Gigabit Class LTE will be foundational to the mobile broadband experience in 5G networks.
Initially, enhanced mobile broadband in 5G networks will take advantage of millimeter wave (mmWave) spectrum. This will provide extreme capacity and multi-gigabit throughputs in localized hotspots inside public areas and office buildings, for example. But this must be anchored in a technology that provides wider coverage. That anchor is Gigabit Class LTE.
This is similar to what happened when we transitioned from 3G to 4G. Using technologies like DC-HSPA+, evolved 3G networks achieved download speeds that approached those of the first-generation LTE networks. This provided a reliable coverage layer that was essential to the viability of nascent LTE capability. And multi-mode 3G/4G devices provided a smooth experience to users moving between the two technologies.
We believe a similar situation will happen in the transition to 5G, especially with early mmWave 5G networks. Gigabit Class LTE will anchor the mobile experience while multi-mode 3G/4G/5G devices provide users with the best experience possible. As users move away from multi-gigabit-per-second 5G coverage, Gigabit Class LTE can provide the level of service they expect. This is the thinking behind the multi-mode 4G/5G Qualcomm Snapdragon X50 5G modem platform, which was also announced today.
It’s an incredibly exciting time for mobile technology, and we’re proud to play a leading role in bringing these transformational products and technologies to life.
What’s next for the Snapdragon X16 LTE modem? You’ll find it in the next 800-tier Qualcomm Snapdragon processor. That means Gigabit Class LTE capable smartphones are anticipated to be available in 2017. Stay tuned for more.
I’d like to congratulate Telstra, Ericsson, and NETGEAR on achieving this milestone, the first of what will likely be many more Gigabit Class LTE device and network launches that happen over the next 12 months.