Rogers Communications has become the first wireless carrier to activate the next generation of technology, called LTE-Advanced, which will roughly double the download speeds users with standard LTE devices see now .
The carrier won’t give any promises on what speeds users can achieve, saying it depends on conditions such as the user’s location, what spectrum bands are available at the time and how busy the network is. However, according to the industry under ideal conditions users could see downloads speeds of up to 300 megabits per second, twice what LTE standard provides now. Future generations of LTE-A will go up to 1 Gbps — again under ideal conditions.
But to take advantage of the speeds subscribers will need mobile devices capable of handling the technology. Rogers says the new iPhone 6 and Samsung Note are LTE-A capable — but both need software updates. Those updates will be released “shortly,” a spokesman from the carrier said.
The new service is offered initially in 12 cities: Vancouver, Edmonton, Calgary, Windsor, London, Ont., Hamilton, Ont., Toronto, Kingston, Ont., Moncton, Fredericton, Halifax and Saint John, N.B.
Bell Mobility and Telus Corp. are expected to launch LTE-A soon.
LTE-A allows carriers to aggregate the spectrum to in effect create a bigger pipe for data traffic. For Rogers, it is using its AWS spectrum — bought in the 2008 wireless auction — with 700 MHz spectrum it purchased in another auction earlier this year. “It’s like putting the highways in a major city together to make a superhighway, allowing more traffic at faster speeds,” Rogers CEO Guy Laurence said in a release.
The carrier is touting LTE-A as being able to give subscribers a better experience viewing video on their mobile devices — and video is data-intensive, which means more revenue for any operator.
Mobile video consumption is “skyrocketing,” Rogers says, and will likely account for more than half of all online video views within a year. In the first two weeks of the season, hockey fans streamed 650 terabytes (that’s 650 million megabytes) of data on its NHL GameCentre Live site. On average 80,000 people are using their mobiles or tablets to live stream or watch special camera angles on the app each game night since the start of the season, says Rogers.
“This is just the first step,” Laurence said in the release. “In the future, we’ll be able to combine even more spectrum to further enhance the video experience for our customers.”
Around the world carriers have been rolling out LTE-A networks with compatible handsets since 2013. In the U.S., AT&T started LTE-A service in Chicago in March. In Britain Vodafone turned its network on in London, Birmingham and Manchester.
From a technical point of view, LTE-A is mostly implementing Release 10 of the LTE software that wireless network equipment makers use in their core networks, which adds support for carrier aggregation, enhanced multi-antenna support and improved support for heterogeneous deployments and relaying. However, in an interview this morning Rogers executive vice-president of wireless Raj Doshi said the company also had to install a series of new radio and antennas to handle transmissions on the 700 MHz band.
According to a document on the Web site of Ericsson LM, Rogers’ equipment supplier, LTE-Advanced allows faster speeds because it supports transmission bandwidths of up to 100 MHz wide with aggregation of five streams — and Rogers is only aggregating two so far — compared to 20 MHz of standard LTE.