T-Mobile fires up LTE-A in 920 markets, Gigabit LTE in 430 markets

t-mobile arena (T-Mobile)
T-Mobile has been rolling out LTE Advanced technologies in the network since 2014 and says it was first globally with 4X4 MIMO and first in the U.S. with 256 QAM.

SAN JOSE, California—T-Mobile used a media and analyst event here with Qualcomm to announce that LTE Advanced is now in more than 920 markets, with a combination of carrier aggregation, 4X4 MIMO and 256 QAM now live in 430 of those markets.

T-Mobile also said it will launch LAA on small cells this year to further densify its network. The “Un-carrier” previously said it was rolling out LTE-U, the precursor to LAA but hasn’t revealed how much LAA has been deployed or where, only to say it’s “on the horizon.”  

RELATED: T-Mobile launching some LTE-U now, LAA on the horizon

“This is what I’m talking about when I say T-Mobile has America’s best unlimited network and the only one purpose built for unlimited,” said T-Mobile CTO Neville Ray in a press release. “Not only do we have a nationwide LTE footprint that’s every bit as broad as the Duopoly’s, and the fastest according to multiple third parties—it also keeps getting faster. Gigabit Class LTE technology is part of the secret sauce behind our success—and why others are struggling under the weight of unlimited—and we’re only continuing to advance with LAA on the horizon.”

Operators can double their previous download speeds with LTE Advanced, and using a combination of carrier aggregation, 4X4 MIMO and 256 QAM, speeds can up to double again. T-Mobile says it’s using this “trifecta” so T-Mobile customers with compatible devices could get Gigabit Class LTE download speeds in those 430 markets.

“Global momentum for Gigabit Class LTE is continuing to pick up around the world, and we’re delighted that T-Mobile is planning to deliver gigabit connectivity to millions of consumers in the United States,” said Mike Finley, senior vice president and president, Qualcomm North America and Australia, Qualcomm Technologies, in the release. “In addition to providing blazing fast mobile connectivity, Gigabit Class LTE enables operators to expand network capacity to accommodate increasing demands by unlimited data plans, and increases overall spectral efficiency, enabling faster speeds for all users in the network.”

RELATED: Gigabit LTE gains velocity as more carriers, OEMs announce support

Gigabit LTE has been a big buzzword in the industry most of this year. Things kicked off last year when Qualcomm unveiled the Snapdragon X16 LTE modem, the first commercially announced modem to support Gigabit class LTE speeds.

Then, early this year, Qualcomm, along with Netgear and Ericsson, helped launch the “Gigabit LTE Experience” on Telstra’s network in Sydney, Australia, to celebrate the arrival of the world’s first Gigabit LTE mobile device and network. The device was the Netgear Nighthawk M1 mobile router. Executives actually staged a launch event at the popular Opera House, where they were getting very fast speeds—like 900 Mbps—in the middle of the day at the crowded tourist spot.

Basically what Gigabit LTE technology means for operators—all four of which in the U.S. are bringing back “unlimited” data offers—is the ability to handle the increasing video traffic more efficiently. One thing consumers tend to do when they’re on unlimited plans is watch video, whether it’s HBO’s "Game of Thrones" or content on Netflix, Hulu, YouTube or something else.

RELATED: T-Mobile offers free Netflix to unlimited users with family plans

In September, T-Mobile unveiled Netflix On Us. Through an exclusive partnership with Netflix, T-Mobile One family plans come with Netflix at no extra charge. To qualify, customers need two or more paid voice lines on T-Mobile One.

Gigabit Class LTE is viewed as a key milestone on the path to 5G. Attendees at today’s event were promised to see the benefits of Gigabit Class LTE through live demonstrations—including virtual reality, super-fast download of TV shows and movies for offline play—and faster service for all users regardless of device due to increased network capacity.

Of course, devices used in the demos are powered by the Snapdragon 835 Mobile Platform with X16 LTE—Samsung Galaxy S8, Samsung Galaxy Note8, Moto Z2 Force Edition and LG V30—on T-Mobile’s LTE-A network.

As of Nov. 1, 41 operators in 24 different countries were deploying or trialing Gigabit LTE, including the four major U.S. operators, according to Qualcomm.