NEW ORLEANS – During a live demonstration of Sprint’s gigabit LTE capabilities in New Orleans on Wednesday, the carrier let slip that Motorola will be the first to release a smartphone that comes with all the elements necessary to enable infamous gig speeds. And according to other sources at the event, Motorola won’t be the only one.
Motorola’s CVP of Global Product Development Shakil Barkat said the company is currently working on a device set to be released later this year that will be the first to include three-carrier aggregation and 256-QAM capabilities alongside four MIMO antennas. Barkat said it was a challenge to fit four antennas in the small form factor of a handset, but noted Motorola was helped by the higher frequency of Sprint’s 2.5 GHz spectrum – which allows for smaller antennas – as well as by some unique antenna technology the company has been developing for “several years.”
Though Barkat declined to provide a more specific timeframe for release or details about the device’s features and operating system, he did confirm the device will run on Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 835 processor.
In tests with Sprint using prototypes, the mystery device consistently delivered average downlink speeds of between 700 and 900 Mbps, Sprint VP of Product Ryan Sullivan said. And in the demo using 4×4 MIMO, 256-QAM, and three-carrier aggregation live on Sprint’s network during an NBA game (i.e., with a fair amount of concentrated traffic) at the Smoothie King arena, Wireless Week personally witnessed speeds of 612 Mbps.
But it seems Motorola won’t be the only vendor coming out with a gigabit handset this year.
A Qualcomm representative told Wireless Week that at least four – but up to 7 – gigabit handsets utilizing the Snapdragon 835 platform will be landing in the United States this year. That includes devices from two unnamed companies from Korea, LG (which one analyst at the even speculated will come in the form of the V30), and “the typical Chinese suspects who sell premium tier” smartphones.
And that seems to work fine for Sprint’s gigabit timeline. Sullivan subsequently confirmed the Motorola device will be the “first of many” gigabit phones expected this year.
Additionally, Sullivan indicated Sprint is expecting a “steep ramp” in adoption of gigabit LTE devices on its network. According to Sullivan, that progression will proceed – albeit very approximately – as follows: less than 20 percent of users by the end of this year, less than 50 percent by the end of 2018, and a large majority by the end of 2019.
The key, Sullivan noted, will be the trickle down effect. That is, gigabit capabilities will launch in premium-tier devices – like Motorola’s forthcoming phone – first, before being adopted later in mid-tier handsets, and hopefully eventually in lower tiers.