Last Thursday, Rogers announced that it will roll out its LTE network this year in Toronto, Montreal, Vancouver and Ottawa. Twenty-five other “top markets across Canada will receive the same service by 2012,” said the company.
LTE is the latest standard in mobile network tech. Most of the current generation of mobile telecommunication networks is collectively known as 3G (third generation). LTE specifications provide download speeds of 100 Megabits per second (Mbps) and upload speeds of about 50 Mbps. It is considered to be ideal for serving increasingly bandwidth-hungry applications used by mobile and Internet users for activities such as video streaming, video conferencing and online gaming.
Rogers claims their LTE network has “peak” download rates of up to 150 Mbps and upload speeds of up to 70 Mbps during tests. Asked by ITBusiness.ca what upload and download speeds Canadian users could expect in real-world application, Reade Barber, senior director for data product management at Rogers Communications, declined to give any solid figures. “I can’t give you any specific numbers because there are too many factors involved.”
When told that Verizon’s LTE network was found to deliver 4 Mbps to 6 Mbps download “as well as bursts well over 10 Mbps” in a recent Network World test conducted in Boston, Barber, replied: “Our network can exceed those numbers.”
“I just can’t provide any specific numbers, but our lab tests show that we can deliver speeds two to three times faster than any existing network in Canada,” Barber added.
Pressure on Bell and Telus
Rogers’ announcement puts the pressure on the other two Canadian telecom incumbents Bell Canada Enterprises Inc. and Telus Corp. to trot out their respective LTE networks.
No date has been set yet for a Bell LTE network roll out. “We are currently testing LTE in Montreal and Hamilton, but have not announced network availability,” said Jason Laszlo, spokesperson for the company.
Nobody gets 100 Mbps really
While LTE specs provide for downloads of at least 100 Mbps and uploads of 50 Mbps, and the dual-band HSPA+ network launched by Telus recently boasts of 42 Mbps downloads and 11 Mbps uploads, industry experts generally agree that in real-world applications, networks never deliver advertised speeds.
“None of the networks will be able to deliver what they claim. You’d be lucky to get 60 per cent of the stated numbers,” says Roberta Fox, principal of Fox Group Consulting, a Mt. Albert, Ont.-based telecommunications technology consultancy.
Typically, she said, users only get one-third to one-half of the maximum speed of a network because of numerous variables. This is why the 4 Mbps to 6 Mbps download speeds obtained by Verizon’s LTE network was still considered “superior” to anything else in the test area by Network World.
Among the factors that affect network performance are:
- The proximity of the user to the network’s cell tower (the farther away a user is the slower the network speed)
- Environmental conditions (a snowy day can slow down the network)
- Capacity (more people in a network can slow down speeds)
Still, Fox said LTE networks will be a definite boost for many businesses. “The bumped up upload speeds will be better for the evolving digital environment that has spawned a lot of data hogs.”
Many companies even SMBs are increasingly adopting video conferencing technologies, she says. Many small businesses are also deploying remote workers that rely on mobile devices to access data or presentation materials from head office locations.
For these types of business applications, Barber of Rogers said, LTE can provide better connections than existing networks. “For video conferencing there will be better back and forth traffic with a lot less buffering and lag time, for those downloading data from head office the process will be much faster.”
Video quality will also be “crisper,” which Barber said will be a welcome development for online gamers.
Early adopters be wary
Early users of LTE however, should be careful about the devices they choose, according to Fox.
Because Rogers could be alone in the LTE space for some time, users should make sure the devices they chose to run on the network should be backwards compatible with existing networks. If a user goes out side of the LTE range, his or her device might not function on another network, said Fox.
“Until the other networks catch up, there will be some incompatibilities for sometime,” she said. “Make sure your device can work on multiple networks.”