EE has announced a major upgrade to its 4G service, following the introduction of Cat 9-based three carrier aggregation to boost its LTE capacity and speeds.
The move, EE claims, sees it launch the UK’s fastest LTE network, with download speeds in excess of 350 Mbps on the live network. At present, EE’s LTE-Advanced (or 4G+) service relies on two carrier aggregation, which essentially utilises two blocks of mobile spectrum. With the launch of Cat 9-based LTE-A, EE is moving into the world of three carrier aggregation, and has stated it will be rolling out the technology across more than 500 sites, towns and cities in the UK by the end of 2017.
While EE looks like it’s the first operator in the UK to rollout live LTE-A three carrier aggregation, Vodafone trialled the technology back in May with Ericsson. Vodafone says that by using combining spectrum in the 800 MHz, 1.8 GHz and 2.6 GHz bands, it was able to achieve early test speeds of 240 Mbps, but is clinging to the hope that 700 Mbps will be possible in the future.
EE’s service is now live in Wembley Stadium, and will shortly be launched in East London’s hipster-native equivalent of Silicon Valley, Tech City. Birmingham and Manchester are allegedly on the list for early rollouts, with the majority of deployments coming in 2017.
“There’s no point having the latest smartphones on a network that can’t support the top speeds the device is capable of,” said CEO Marc Allera. “We’ve invested in our network to ensure that all of our customers get the most out of the amazing smartphones they have, and can keep up with the highest speeds that the latest devices offer. With 4G+ now supporting Cat 9 devices, plus Wi-Fi Calling and 4G Calling, customers on EE will continue to get more from their new smartphone than on any other network in the UK.”
For the time being, EE says only the very latest handsets are able to support LTE-A in its three carrier aggregation form. Handsets include HTC M10, Samsung Galaxy S7 and S7 Edge, and the Samsung Galaxy Note 7 when it stops exploding.