LTE mobile broadband will deliver 20Mbps download speeds

Networks and devices for LTE, which is expected to be the next major standard in mobile broadband technology, are slated to launch next year

When the first LTE (Long Term Evolution) networks and devices are launched next year, users can expect to see a download speed of about 20 Mbps, according to Motorola and ZTE.

On the show floor at ITU World, ZTE and Fujitsu are showing upcoming modems that support download speeds of up to 100 Mbps (bits per second) and upload speeds of up to 50 Mbps when connected to an LTE network, according to their respective spec sheets.

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But no user will ever see those kinds of speeds. The real-world bandwidth will instead be about 20 Mbps when downloading data and 5 Mbps when uploading data, according to Xiaodong Zhu, CTO at ZTE in Western Europe. Those numbers are seconded by Stephane Daeuble, senior manager at Motorola LTE Global Marketing.

To put the first number into perspective: Mobile broadband subscribers in Sweden -- equipped with a device that on paper supports up to 7.2 Mbps -- were on average getting a real-world download speed of 2.3 Mbps during September, according to statistics from broadband-measuring site Bredbandskollen, or The Broadband Check.

The industry is being more conservative this time around when it comes to real capacity, according to Daeuble. It has been bitten so many times before by overmarketing the capacities that the mobile networks can deliver, he said.

But LTE is still not in the field, and what the technology can really deliver won't be known until 20 or 30 different devices are being used in different parts of the world using different frequencies, Daeuble said.

LTE is expected to be the next major standard in mobile broadband technology, and carriers have begun to convert their networks to LTE. Fourteen LTE networks are anticipated to be in service by the end of 2010 in the U.S., Canada, Japan, Norway, South Korea and Sweden, according to data from the Global mobile Suppliers Association (GSA).

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