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Everything you need to know about 4G LTE in Canada

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Everything you need to know about 4G LTE in Canada

The science of wireless

It is lovely smartly understood that 4G LTE is quicker than 3G. Tens of millions of Canadians have upgraded from telephones that used to function on 3G, or third-generation wireless networks, to LTE, which is thought of as the fourth era.

As well as to quicker knowledge speeds, LTE improves upon earlier generations in a variety of tactics, together with spectrum potency, latency, value of deployment, and extra.

What's 4G LTE?

In Canada, LTE has rolled out to just about each and every service running around the nation (excluding Wind Cellular, however we're going to come to that). When referring to LTE, we are referring to the kind of sign that connects the telephone in your pocket to the tower operated via your cellular phone supplier. Either one of the ones items need to be in play for you to obtain ultra-fast LTE speeds; in case your smartphone helps LTE however you're in part of Canada the place the mobile towers have now not but been upgraded to LTE, you'll most probably see the emblem trade to H+ close to the highest proper of your telephone, which denotes that you've dropped down to 3G speeds.

In Canada, LTE has rolled out to just about each and every service running around the nation... with one primary exception.

Nearly each and every telephone bought at the Canadian marketplace nowadays helps LTE in some shape. When connecting to your telephone supplier's towers, the community supplier (Rogers, Telus, Bell) tells your telephone that it needs to attach on a specific frequency, or band, which transmits the wireless sign on specific wavelength. You could have heard some other folks use phrases like "AWS" or "700Mhz", either one of which refer to specific frequencies and bands that Canadian smartphones attach to. (Whilst they are technically other, I am going to use the time period "band" and "frequency" interchangeably in this explainer. A band is simply a mixture of frequencies, made up our minds by way of the 3GPP, a frame that standardizes radio frequency mixtures all the way through the arena.)

Whilst it is not in particular necessary to know the specifics of each and every band, maximum smartphones do not simply attach on one: they use a mixture of low (700Mhz) and top (AWS, or 1700/2100Mhz)) to make certain that they may be able to glean probably the most protection and velocity all through the day, relying for your location. Usually, the decrease the frequency, the longer that sign can commute, however at a slower velocity; the upper the frequency, the larger the prospective throughput, however at an expense of velocity.

Which bands do Canadian carriers use?

Just about each and every Canadian service makes use of a mixture of various bands to succeed in persistently just right LTE efficiency.

The 3 primary LTE bands in use in Canada at this time are:

  • Band 12/17 (700Mhz)
  • Band 4 (1700/2100Mhz)
  • Band 7 (2600Mhz)

Some carriers, akin to Bell and Telus, have refarmed a part of their growing older 3G networks for the needs of LTE transmission, which come with:

  • Band 5 (850Mhz)
  • Band 2 (1900Mhz)

Different carriers, akin to Bell and Telus, use small quantities of alternative frequencies, akin to Band 29, only for downloads, so Canadians can get their video and not using a buffering.

This is how the primary 3 Canadian community suppliers stand when it comes to LTE:

Community Bands
Rogers Band 12 (700Mhz), Band 4 (AWS), Band 7 (2600Mhz)
Band 13 (700Mhz)
Bell Band 17 (700Mhz), Band 7 (2600MHz), Band 4 (AWS)
Band 2 (1900Mhz), Band 5 (850Mhz), Band 29 (700Mhz), Band 13 (700Mhz)
Telus Band 17 (700Mhz), Band 7 (2600MHz), Band 4 (AWS)
Band 2 (1900Mhz), Band 5 (850Mhz), Band 29 (700Mhz), Band 13 (700Mhz)
Videotron Band 4 (AWS), Band 13 (700Mhz)
MTS Band 4 (AWS), Band 13 (700Mhz)
SaskTel Band 4 (AWS), Band 13 (700Mhz)
Eastlink Band 4 (AWS), Band 13 (700Mhz)

Simply how a lot spectrum?

Each and every service needs extra spectrum. That is the takeaway from part a dozen government-run spectrum auctions and dozens of regulatory-scrutinized exchanges over the last few years. Acquisitions, comparable to Telus's acquire of Public Cellular, Rogers' pursuit of Mobilicity, and Shaw's blockbuster bid for Wind Cellular had extra to do with spectrum than the worth in their cumulative consumer base.

Whilst the tale of Canada's spectrum is longer than this newsletter, know this: till 2008, when the federal government put aside a specific amount of AWS spectrum for what would grow to be Mobilicity, Wind Cellular, Videotron, Public Cellular and Eastlink, virtually all the nation's wireless waves have been managed via Rogers, Bell and Telus.

These days, this is nonetheless the case (and, more and more with consolidation, returning to the ones heady days of the mid-2000s), however the Canadian authorities has dedicated to making sure a fourth competitor in each and every retail wireless marketplace.

The Canadian authorities has dedicated to making sure a fourth competitor in each and every retail wireless marketplace.

Since that AWS public sale, the federal government has auctioned off airwaves in 3 further key bands: 700Mhz; 2500Mhz; and AWS-3. The 2 former frequencies are in large part already deployed, expanding LTE capability in the low and high finish.

The latter, AWS-3, has but to be deployed any place in Canada, and it's the one band, Band 66, on which a lot of the rustic's wireless long run rests. This is as a result of when the federal government auctioned it, it put aside a big portion for Wind to scoop up a bargain-basement costs. When Shaw bought Wind past due final yr, it snuck into the spectrum birthday celebration with out a lot funding. (Even though the sticklers will without a doubt indicate that Shaw bought a big swath of spectrum throughout the unique 2008 AWS public sale, and ended up promoting it to Rogers in 2013 after deciding now not to input the wireless marketplace by itself. Sure, complicated!)

Suffice it to say, Rogers, Bell and Telus cumulatively hang many loads of megahertz of spectrum, each "legacy" — Band 2 (1900Mhz) and Band 5 (850Mhz) — and "trendy" (AWS, 700Mhz, 2500, AWS-3). However as a result of they grasp some 90% of the wireless marketplace percentage, they're all the time taking a look to gain extra, each in anticipation of long run call for, and provide constraints.

Again when Telus and Bell have been construction their respective LTE networks, they made up our minds to proceed a community and tower-sharing settlement established right through their time as nascent HSPA+ 3G operators. Competing towards Rogers, which used to be the one GSM-based supplier for far of the 2000's, Bell and Telus necessarily cut up the rustic in two, construction a national community with Telus taking the brunt of the infrastructure prices in the West, and Bell in the East. That stands to at the present time, although the specifics are extremely confidential. But if one refers to national LTE networks, there are two: Rogers, and Bell / Telus.

Speaking LTE-Complex

Whilst the definition of LTE-Complex is greater than a bit of bit fluid, according to the 3GPP standards body, the specification makes a speciality of upper capability, basically thru service aggregation, more than one antenna units (MIMO), and relay nodes.

Maximum Canadian carriers enhance LTE-Complex in a method or any other. While the earliest LTE releases restricted speeds to between 75Mbps and 100Mbps, LTE-Complex makes use of quite a few enhancements in Unencumber 10 and 11 of the LTE same old to succeed in speeds coming near 1Gbps.

Class 6 and Class 9 LTE

The baseline speeds for LTE-Complex have been accomplished with between 15 and 20Mhz of deployed spectrum, in comparison to between 5 and 10Mhz for normal LTE.

Maximum community suppliers need to achieve as a lot so-called contiguous spectrum as imaginable — this is, blocks of 5 or 10Mhz which might be proper subsequent to one some other, so they may be able to shape singular massive blocks of up to 20Mhz at one time. The broader a channel, the speedier that connection can carry out; present smartphones, underneath the most recent Class 6 LTE specification, can succeed in speeds of up to 300Mbps with the right mix. However the newest units, just like the Samsung Galaxy S7, can get entry to Class 9 LTE, which is able to hurries up to 450Mbps the use of tri-carrier aggregation (see beneath).

The issue with contiguous spectrum is that it's fairly unusual, particularly in Canada. Whilst Rogers does personal massive swaths of contiguous AWS and 2500Mhz spectrum, Bell and Telus were pressured to use some other means to succeed in LTE-Complex speeds.

Service Aggregation

These days, maximum carriers succeed in extremely top LTE speeds the use of service aggregation. Call to mind service aggregation as a bowl that is making an attempt to fill with sweet as temporarily as imaginable. If you best have one pair of arms digging into the sweet packet, it may well best achieve so temporarily. However with 3 pairs of arms, each and every dipping into the packet at various occasions and speeds, the bowl can also be crammed in no time.

At its core, service aggregation combines spectrum from more than a few frequencies. In Canada, maximum carriers succeed in top LTE speeds with dual-carrier aggregation, which mixes two frequencies, in most cases one top and one low. A not unusual aggregate is 700Mhz and AWS, used maximum frequently via Rogers.

However Bell and Telus have accomplished triple service aggregation, which mixes 3 channels. The most typical aggregate that I have skilled is Band 2 (1900Mhz), Band 4 (AWS) and Band 17 (700Mhz). Combining 20Mhz, 10Mhz, and 15Mhz of the aforementioned bands provides us 45Mhz to paintings with, ensuing in attainable obtain speeds of 335Mbps.


At its core, VoLTE, or Voice over LTE, strikes the voice name from slower, lower-bandwidth 3G networks to the similar IP-based community used to transmit knowledge. This effects in a lot better voice high quality with much less compression; quicker name connections, from seven seconds to underneath two; and the power to retain an LTE connection whilst on a decision, for quicker surfing. The usual additionally helps video calls, despite the fact that only a few telephones in fact have that local skill.

Of all of the Canadian networks, Rogers, Bell and Telus have rolled out Voice Over LTE to some degree, with an increasing footprint and software portfolio each and every few months. As a result of Rogers started its rollout first, it lately has the easiest selection of supported units.

The way forward for LTE in Canada

Canadian carriers have historically been early adopters of latest wireless generation, comparable to LTE-Complex and VoLTE. Whilst Rogers, Telus and Bell declare that their LTE networks are coming near the 97-plus % protection in their present 3G HSPA+ networks, there's one corporate many Canadians are hoping will convey down the price of per thirty days cellular phone possession, that has but to release its LTE community.

Wind Cellular, which is now owned through Shaw Communications, plans to release an LTE community in past due 2016 or early 2017, pending the supply of units supporting the burgeoning AWS-3 specification. Unified underneath Band 66, AWS-3 and AWS-1 will co-exist on long run smartphones and pills, however till the ones units hit the marketplace, Wind Cellular can not realistically make an have an effect on.

At the moment, Wind will start refarming a few of its AWS-1 spectrum, which this present day solely declares 3G sign, to LTE, permitting present units to attach.

In the meanwhile, Rogers, Bell and Telus will proceed making an attempt to persuade Canadians that upper costs are justified for the constant high quality, velocity, and protection they obtain. Regional suppliers, similar to Videotron, Eastlink, SaskTel and others, will center of attention on their restricted protection spaces whilst running with nationwide incumbents to mimic nationwide networks thru reciprocal roaming agreements.

Questions about LTE in Canada? Depart them in the feedback and we're going to get to them in a long run column.


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