New LTE tech brings screaming speeds — but not to iPhones

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T-Mobile LTE speed test

Photo: T-Mobile

T-Mobile has increased LTE speeds to a staggering 500Mbps in New York City. It has become the first carrier to test commercial Licensed Assisted Access (LAA) technology, which sends 4G signals over unused 5GHz Wi-Fi channels to increase bandwidth, in the United States.

LAA will soon be expanding its reach across the U.S. — but you won’t be able to enjoy it on iPhone.

Carriers are working hard to bring us next-generation 5G connectivity, which is capable of delivering data speeds of up to 20Gbps. In the meantime, smartphone users in the U.S. will benefit from LAA, which is already being tested in New York by T-Mobile.

T-Mobile boosts LTE in NYC

At a cell site in Manhattan, T-Mobile is combining 20MHz of its Band 4 spectrum with 60MHz of LAA spectrum to provide a huge boost in LTE speeds. CNET reports that it has been seeing download speeds in excess of 500Mbps, while T-Mobile says LAA is capable of reaching 1.2Gbps.

“In 13 tests, we got an average of 503Mbps down and 42.7Mbps up,” it explains. “Just to compare, in Ookla’s Speedtest Intelligence database, the top 10 percent of T-Mobile download speeds in that ZIP code are only around 70Mbps down.”

If you have a phone that supports LAA, then you can get up to ten 100Mbps download streams on this cell site, CNET adds. Those without an LAA-compatible handset could also see LTE speed boosts, though they won’t be anywhere near as significant.

Sadly, none of Apple’s latest iPhones can use LAA. You’ll need one of Samsung’s latest flagships, like the Galaxy S8 or the Galaxy S9; an LG V30, or an Huawei Mate 10 Pro.

What is LAA?

In a nutshell, LAA takes unused 5GHz Wi-Fi channels and combines them with traditional LTE bands to vastly increase data bandwidth. It only works in dense urban areas, and cell tower coverage is limited. T-Mobile’s site in New York reaches around 1,000 feet, which is said to be good for LAA.

 

AT&T and Verizon are also working on LAA networks right now, so we’ll see them popping up in major U.S. cities throughout 2018 and beyond. Sprint won’t be able to offer LAA because it doesn’t own enough of the wireless spectrum to achieve the increased speeds.