Future ready: Vodafone and O2 test superfast LTE-A in Germany

New towers mean speeds of up to 225Mbps - but there's a wait ahead for the hardware.

In back-to-back announcements in Germany last week, both Vodafone and Telefonica, the telco behind the O2 brand, said they were separately testing LTE-Advanced (LTE-A) networks.

While LTE-Advanced infrastructure would mean theoretical download speeds of up to 225Mbps, the new technology cannot be used by consumers until commercial hardware is available, probably sometime next year.

The tests are decidedly small-scale: the first LTE-Advanced radio tower from O2 is located at the company's headquarters in Munich; Vodafone's is at Dresden's University of Technology, where the company conducts mobile research.

An LTE-Advanced Radio Antenna
O2 Germany's first LTE-Advanced radio tower, Munich. Image: Telefonica

To achieve the 225Mbps theoretical top speed, both companies use carrier aggregation, where two separate spectrum bands are combined to increase throughput. For instance, in the Telefonica test, the 2.6GHz band can carry up to 150Mbps, while the 800MHz carries 75Mbps simultaneously.

Similar tests are currently happening across Europe, as mobile providers are starting to establish the infrastructure that will eventually succeed 4G. The announcements in Germany come just weeks after successful but limited LTE-Advanced tests in both France and the UK .

Indeed, even without LTE-Advanced, Germany's mobile carriers have been escalating maximum theoretical speeds by rolling out new network technologies, with each striving to have "Germany's fastest mobile network". In August, Vodafone began increasing 4G speeds in the country to a theoretical maximum of 150Mbps; Deutsche Telekom did the same in September .

However, since the country already has 3G networks that are (relatively) reliable and fast, it's not actually clear if many consumers in the country are willing to pay extra for higher speeds .

And at the same time, no LTE-Advanced hardware is commercially available in Europe at the moment, with both Vodafone and Telefonica are working with Huawei prototype devices. Both companies said that LTE-Advanced USB dongles, routers and smartphones will be available sometime next year.

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