The “world’s fastest 4G network", due to be trialled by EE on businesses in London’s Tech City, has only been used by EE's own engineers, Techworld can reveal.
EE's LTE Advanced (LTE-A) network in East London offers theoretical maximum speeds of 300Mbps but businesses in the area are unable to use it because they don't have the right smartphones or tablets.
LTE-A can only be accessed by devices that have a Cat 6 LTE modem built into them, a feature found on certain versions of the Samsung Galaxy Note 4, Samsung Galaxy S5, Huawei Ascend P7 and the G3 from LG Electronics.
However, much to EE's disappointment, manufacturers, including Apple, aren't yet installing Cat 6 techmology in the versions of their devices that they're shipping to the UK. EE, which was the first to roll out conventional 4G in the UK, said it expects this to change in coming months.
The mobile operator admitted to Techworld that its LTE-A network, which uses carrier aggregation, where 20MHz of 1800Mhz spectrum and 20MHz of 2.6Ghz spectrum are used together to deliver higher speeds, was too far ahead of the device ecosystem.
Tom Bennett, director of network services and devices at EE, told Techworld: “In lieu of that, we trialled extensively with our own engineers in locations all around Tech City, and that included in offices of some of our partners, customers and suppliers across the area. Thousands and thousands of tests have been done.
“In testing, we’ve seen speeds in excess of 250Mbps to a smartphone. Even in a relatively busy environment, customers might still expect around 100Mbps to a smartphone – but the real benefit of this technology is the extra capacity it brings, meaning that many more customers can have data speeds that are more than sufficient for whatever they want to do.
“Now that there are stable Cat 6 devices coming to the market, and we have the LTE-Advanced network waiting to be switched on in central London, with just some optimisation and some of the mandatory RADAR clearance testing to qualify with Ofcom, we’re confident that the launch will be well received – we’re due to switch on in the coming weeks.
EE said the tests that it has carried out with its engineers has helped it to optimise the network for the 2.6Ghz spectrum that it's using for the first time.
"Managing interference with spectrum bands is a priority, and we’re finding that the 2.6 spectrum, when managed properly, actually has outstanding indoor qualities," said Bennett. "Also, one of the key benefits that we’ve discovered is the overall uplift that the additional 2.6GHz layer provides – even for customers on a Cat 3 or Cat 4 phone, the additional capacity in the network enhances the overall experience. And even for iPhone 5 customers (whose device only supports 1800MHz frequencies) the 2.6GHz layer makes more room on their band, meaning a better experience for them too.
“We’ll launch in central London this year, then continue to expand out across Greater London, aiming to cover inside the M25 within Q2 2015.”
Under the current generation of LTE, theoretical top speeds are 150Mbps, with real world speeds more in the region of 24Mbps to 30Mbps.