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TechTerms: LTE-Advanced or 4G+ explained

|November 22, 2016 |4G, 4G LTE, Airtel, Futuristic tech

"4G+ or LTE-Advanced is a carrier aggregation technology wherein different 4G bands can be aggregated and used more efficiently to deliver faster internet speeds"

4G has been around for a while now but you wouldn’t mind being introduced to something faster, would you? Allow us to tell you a bit about 4G+ or LTE-Advanced.

4g

While you'd have heard murmurs about 4G+ every now and then during the past few months, it’s still not a mainstream technology in India yet (despite the GSMA having declared LTE-Advanced a mainstream technology with 147 network operators providing the service in 69 countries). While commercial rollouts for the service happened in different parts of the world starting back in 2013, it was only in February 2016 that India got its first LTE-Advanced network via Airtel in Kerala. Interestingly, Airtel was the first telecom operator to deploy 4G services in the country as well.

4G+ or LTE-Advanced is basically a Carrier Aggregation (CA) technology wherein different 4G bands can be aggregated and used more efficiently to deliver faster internet speeds... more than 100Mbps to be precise. There could be several analogies to explain this concept, but the simplest one would be to consider the network as a highway, which has multiple lanes ala spectrum. More the lanes or the spectrum, faster would be the traffic and vice versa. The technology also helps the operators to combine their different spectrums. 

Now you may ask why the CA is required? The spectrum is a precious resource held by the government, and the telecom operators pay license fees to use the same. This means, they may not have the same bandwidth in abundance, but they might have acquired different spectrums. With the use of this technology, they can combine their spectrums to offer better data speeds. In fact, Korea's SK Telecom, in one of its tryouts, has managed to achieve speeds of up to 450Mbps. Fast is an understatement. In its trials in Kerela, Airtel, in partnership with Nokia Networks, combined the  2,300MHz TD-LTE band, and 1,800MHz FD-LTE band to successfully deliver data speeds of up to 135Mbps. Airtel plans to invest Rs 60,000 crore into the development and expansion of the technology over the coming three years. 

The big question, however, is that which devices are currently equipped to be able to comply with the next-gen LTE services. The answer to that would be almost all the flagships... the likes of Samsung Galaxy S6 and S7 duo, Apple's pair of the iPhone 6s and iPhone 7, LG G5, Sony Xperia Z5, Xiaomi Mi 5, and OnePlus 3.

lenovo-z2-plus

Before you sulk thinking that you might need to spend a fortune to be able to enjoy 4G+ services when they roll out to the masses, we’d like to remind you that the term flagship does not correspond to expensive. The Lenovo Z2 Plus, which was launched recently, packs in powerful specs and one of the highlights of the device was its compatibility with 4G+. Many other mid-range smartphones such as the Samsung Galaxy A5 (2016), Galaxy A7 (2016), and Moto G4 Plus also support the technology.

There's a little doubt that the 4G+ will take the experience of using data on mobile devices to the next level. Add to it the fact that the cost of the plans would remain mostly the same as regular LTE plans because the new technology uses the same bands, only more efficiently. That said, the primary factor behind the exponential growth of the 4G+ will be the cost of compatible smartphones. And our experience suggests that for the technology to christened as mainstream in India, the prices for the devices would have to come down to at least Rs 8,000.



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