T-Mobile hints at 'approaching gigabit LTE speeds' next year

T-Mobile CTO Neville Ray. Image: T-Mobile

T-Mobile CTO Neville Ray suggested the carrier plans to offer data transmissions “approaching gigabit LTE speeds” in at least some markets next year.

Executives from the third-largest U.S. mobile network operator spoke at length about the progress T-Mobile has made on its network during an earnings call with analysts Monday. T-Mobile has deployed its 700 MHz A Block spectrum in 366 markets covering 225 POPs, and it has agreements in place to reach more than 270 million with those airwaves, Jennifer Fritzsche of Wells Fargo Securities observed in a research note to investors.

Perhaps most noteworthy, though, is T-Mobile’s claim that it will begin to approach 1-Gbps LTE speeds in some markets next year by coupling three-way carrier aggregation with 4x4 MIMO (multiple input, multiple output).

RELATED: T-Mobile doubles network speeds with 4x4 MIMO, expands to cover 312M POPs

“In terms of speed, if you think about a world where you have three-way carrier aggregation and you can do 4x4, and you can do both together – which is the story of 2017 – then you’re approaching gigabit LTE speeds, which is really exciting for 2017,” Ray said during the earnings call, according to a Seeking Alpha transcript. “We can do about 400 megabits per second on 4x4 and/or three-way carrier agg. And then the two coming together, you can start to double down, and as you expand your carrier-agg reach, you can move towards gigabits.”

Ray said last month that T-Mobile had begun to double the speed of its data network using 4x4 MIMO, which it said “doubles the number of data paths between a cell site and your phone.” The technology – which T-Mobile claims to be the first operator to deploy -- is available in 319 cities and is supported by the Samsung Galaxy S7 and S7 Edge thanks to a recently deployed software update.

More than 1 million T-Mobile users are already accessing 4x4 MIMO for smartphones, Ray said.

Ray also said the mid-band AWS-3 spectrum T-Mobile won at auction last year will be “a valuable tool” for the carrier beginning next year. Wireless carriers and other bidders spent a total of roughly $44 billion during the FCC’s spectrum auction last year to acquire those airwaves, which are included in the 3GPP’s Band 66.

RELATED: Apple’s iPhone 7 ignores Band 66 for AWS-3 spectrum which may slow carrier network buildouts

The LG V20, which will launch at T-Mobile later this week, will reportedly be the first handset to support Band 66.

“You can’t do this one quick,” Ray said Monday regarding the rollout of services on Band 66. “It depends on your holdings and where you sit. Your AWS-3 addition may be contiguous with your existing AWS assets. So, actually, it doesn’t require carrier agg in its kind of traditional sense. But long story short, you’re going to see that spectrum come to market and become a valuable tool for us in 2017.”