As LTE Hits 1 Gbps, 3G Tries to Keep Pace

Long-Term Evolution (LTE), the wireless broadband technology that is being rolled out on networks around the world, is heading past 1 Gbps speeds, thanks to Japanese carrier, NTT DoCoMo. They have recently received spectrum in the cities of Yokosuka and Sagamihara to start testing what they call a 4G LTE Advanced network.

LTE Advanced gets 1 Gbps on the downlink and 200 Mbps on the uplink. In March 2010, Chinese equipment maker Huawei showed off 1.2 Gbps LTE Advanced. In December, NTT DoCoMo launched its LTE network, which currently offers download speeds of 37.5 Mbps and upload speeds of 12.5 Mbps.

As a technology, LTE is likely to replace the HSPA set of technologies, though many network operators (including T-Mobile USA) believe that, for now, HSPA has enough headroom to keep up with LTE. Today, Ericsson (s ERIC) announced that it had come up with a new HSPA technology that allows for 168 Mbps downlink and 24 Mbps uplink speeds.

Ericsson claims that we are seeing speeds go up on HSPA because of the combination of three different technologies: 64 quadrature amplitude modulation (QAM) or higher order modulation, MIMO dual-antenna technology and multi-carrier technology. (Learn more about how Ericsson does it.)

Ericsson claims that it has set a new world record using commercial network equipment, and the company has been pushing the envelope on HSPA technology over the past few years. In 2009, Ericsson launched 42 Mbps (downlink) HSPA in trials, and we saw the commercial deployment of that technology in 2010. Last year it trialed 84 Mbps downlink speeds and expects commercial upgrades in 2011. By 2012 it won’t come as a surprise to me when we see 168 Mbps downlink speeds hit the HSPA networks.

In December 2010, Ericsson’s long-time rival, Nokia Siemens Networks announced that it had come up with a way to give HSPA even more of a boost. They proposed a new wireless broadband standard that could offer peak download speeds of 672 Mbps.

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