We push our smartphones to the limit on a regular basis. We’re power users, after all.
I bet you’re future-proofing your memories by recording in 4K, and you’re using a cloud service like Google Photos to back up all of your many photos and videos automatically — for safekeeping as well as easy sharing. Your files are probably stored in Google Drive (or you’ve got your own personal cloud setup at home). You’re almost certainly streaming video from YouTube, Netflix, or another online video service a few times a week. You may have even streamed 360-degree video using DayDream VR or Google Cardboard. And I bet you’ve tried live broadcasting with Periscope or Facebook Live.
All of these experiences are very bandwidth intensive and require our devices to push more 1s and 0s in and out than ever before. Without sufficiently fast Internet speeds over LTE and Wi-Fi, they would become an exercise in frustration, or worse yet, wouldn’t be possible at all. And what’s exciting is that with support for even faster speeds, we’ll be able to do even more amazing things in more places.
It’s for these reasons that Qualcomm Technologies built Gigabit Class wireless connectivity into the Qualcomm Snapdragon 835 processor. Whether over LTE or Wi-Fi, Snapdragon 835 processors are designed to deliver the kinds of Internet speeds you’d expect from a fiber-optic cable — but wirelessly.
Gigabit LTE is here
Just last week, we demonstrated some of the scenarios mentioned above live at the Gigabit LTE Experience event in Sydney, Australia where we launched the world’s first Gigabit LTE mobile device and network.
The very same modem that made these experiences possible, the Snapdragon X16 LTE modem, is integrated into the Snapdragon 835 SoC. But it’s not just about LTE: Snapdragon 835 also integrates Qualcomm 11ac Wi-Fi with 2x2 MIMO right on-die. And it is designed to support multi-gigabit speeds using 11ad Wi-Fi, the next generation 60-GHz Wi-Fi technology.
When it comes to Gigabit LTE, I’m often asked two questions: “Do I need Gigabit LTE?” and “Will mobile networks support these new speeds?” The short answer to both is a resounding “Yes.” Let me explain.
Do I need Gigabit LTE?
There’s a common misconception that we need to address right away. Some people think that extreme speeds are only realized in ideal lab conditions, so they’re not relevant in the real world. Their argument is that current LTE devices and networks already support peak speeds of 300 Mbps or 600 Mbps, but actual speeds are lower. It follows, then, that there’s already “enough headroom” in the networks and thus the faster speeds are irrelevant.
Nothing could be further from the truth.
Here’s the thing. Gigabit LTE — and every other LTE innovation we’ve helped commercialize in the past few years — directly contributes to improving the real-world speeds that you’ll experience.
Gigabit LTE provides more consistent Internet speeds as compared to previous generations of LTE. In an extensive network simulation conducted by Qualcomm Technologies, we placed LTE devices of varying capabilities from Cat 4 to Cat 16 (the Gigabit LTE category) in the same network. The average throughput achieved by a Gigabit LTE device was comfortably above 100 Mbps. Depending on traffic type, the average throughput could be much higher. That’s compared to around 65 Mbps for Cat 6 devices, the current baseline for many LTE devices and networks.
And these simulation results bear out in the real world. At the Sydney event, one analyst who tried the first Gigabit LTE device, the NETGEAR Nighthawk M1, which is powered by the same Snapdragon X16 LTE modem that’s in Snapdragon 835, reached 360 Mbps in a speed test. A real device on a live network in the middle of a very crowded tourist area — that’s the power of Gigabit LTE.
The constituent technologies that make Gigabit LTE possible — carrier aggregation, 4x4 MIMO, and 256-QAM — are engineered to allow the network to allocate many more network resources to your device simultaneously than you would get with an older LTE device. Or, alternatively, allocate fewer resources to you without diminishing the speed.
There’s an additional benefit as well. A Gigabit LTE device has four antennas in order to support 4x4 MIMO, giving it a hidden edge. In good signal conditions, you can get four streams of data that increase your speed, as compared to two streams with conventional LTE. In weak signal conditions, the additional antennas act like additional “ears” that are designed to help your Gigabit LTE device lock on to the signal from the tower, which can yield up to 70 percent faster speeds. Think about how slow LTE speeds can get in weak signal conditions. Wouldn’t this speed bump help quite a bit? A real-world study of this on T-Mobile’s network – using the Samsung Galaxy S7, which is capable of 4x4 MIMO thanks to the Snapdragon X12 LTE modem – confirms this.
Additionally, with Gigabit LTE devices, you should be able to finish your downloads much faster, with fewer resources from the network. This can improve the capacity of the network and allow it to serve other users sooner. Not only do you enjoy faster speeds, but other people connected to the same cell tower get faster speeds as well, even if they don’t have a Gigabit LTE device.
So yes, you do need Gigabit LTE. It can improve your average, real-world speeds, give you better speeds in weak signal conditions, and allow other people to enjoy faster speeds too.
Now, on to our second question.
Will mobile networks support these new speeds?
Here, again, the answer is a resounding “Yes.”
Fifteen mobile operators in 11 countries intend to launch or trial Gigabit LTE in 2017. They include: T-Mobile, Sprint, and AT&T in the U.S.; EE, T-Mobile Germany, Vodafone, and Telefonica in Europe; and NTT DoCoMo, SoftBank, KDDI, and SingTel in Asia.
And, of course, Telstra’s Gigabit LTE network is already live. We expect many more to come online over the next few years. It’s important to remember that many people are hanging on to their devices for longer. So even if on day one your network doesn’t support Gigabit LTE, there’s a good chance it may over the lifetime of your phone.
2017 will be the year of Gigabit LTE. And with the right device powered by the Snapdragon 835 processor with X16 LTE, power users can enjoy next-gen experiences sooner than we expected.
Check out our other deep dives into the key components that make up the groundbreaking Snapdragon 835 — battery, immersive AR and VR experiences, camera – and stay tuned for more on security and machine learning coming soon.
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Get full Snapdragon 835 processor specs and download the product brief