Get ready for a big speed boost to 5G
While some of today’s 5G networks are indeed faster than 4G, there’s clearly plenty of room for improvement.
And, based on some new announcements from the likes of Qualcomm, Ericsson and Verizon this week, there are technological improvements heading to the market that could supercharge download speeds for some 5G users.
Primary among those technologies is something called “carrier aggregation.” This technology was initially introduced in the early days of 4G LTE, and it’s a big part of the reason today’s 4G LTE networks are in some cases ten or 20 times faster than the initial LTE networks launched in the early part of the 2010s.
Carrier aggregation provides enormous speed boosts by essentially glueing together transmissions in different spectrum bands, including unlicensed spectrum bands. For example, Verizon first launched its 4G LTE service in a 10MHz chunk of its 700MHz spectrum almost a decade ago. Today, thanks to carrier aggregation, it can tie together 4G transmissions across roughly a dozen chunks of spectrum in its licensed 700MHz, AWS and PCS bands, as well as in unlicensed spectrum bands including 5GHz and 3.5GHz CBRS. Aggregating a new spectrum band into a connection is like adding a new lane to a freeway – more things can go faster.
And now, carrier aggregation is slowly but surely making its way into 5G. “It’s one of several things that’s going to emerge with 5G,” promised Adam Koeppe, Verizon’s SVP of technology planning.
Eight channel carrier aggregation
Verizon this week showed off 4.2 Gbit/s speeds on its 5G network thanks to carrier aggregation across eight 100MHz chunks of spectrum in its 28GHz licensed holdings. Although transmissions in millimeter wave (mmWave) spectrum can’t go very far, they can carry enormous amounts of data. That’s partly because mmWave spectrum is often allocated in 100MHz chunks – that’s ten times bigger than the 10MHz chunks of spectrum typically allocated to the lower band spectrum that forms the basis of most of today’s 4G networks.
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