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Boosting Speeds and Paving the way for 5G

With less than three years remaining until the unofficial rollout of the 5G technology, telecommunication companies in Hungary are busy developing their existing networks to smooth the transition. They also say they are conducting some promising experiments in their laboratories, reaching higher speeds than ever.

Telenor’s lab testing last year helped raise speeds.

Being the most suitable to serve the current capacity demand and customer numbers, it is 4G technology that defines a quality mobile network today and for many years ahead, Magyar Telekom told the Budapest Business Journal. Yet this doesn’t mean that the company is not preparing for the time when network traffic and the need to maintain customer satisfaction makes the switch to the next generation technology inevitable. Magyar Telekom has already been building 4G+ technology, which allows for 300 Mbps nominal download speed service (currently the fastest 4G speed is 150 Mbps). The list of locations where 4G+ is already running also contains some towns that host festivals or events where a large number of users may be connected to the internet at one time.

The fastest mobile data service in Hungary, at 450 Mbps, was introduced by Magyar Telekom in Gödöllő last November, but the company plans to use/expand it at bigger-scale events. In that same month, along with Ericsson Hungary, the company tested a digital technology enabling a 1,200 Mbps download speed at the Regional Digital Summit in Budapest. This technology, which can only be demonstrated in lab conditions today, translates into four times higher performance than the current fastest public mobile internet. Such improvement was achieved by aggregating various frequency ranges, an advanced antennae system and higher-level modulation, Magyar Telekom said.

En route to 5G, successful tests were carried out by Telenor as well at the end of last year, at the radio-testing laboratory at the company’s headquarters at Törökbálint. Using new technology, the company managed to reach a 1,215 Gbps mobile internet speed: the fastest Hipernet data transfer speed to date. That makes the current fastest 4G+ speed of 300 Mbps theoretical download feel positively sluggish. To put “speed” in perspective: while the latter allows you to download a DVD’s worth of data in two minutes, with the new technology, the same task could be accomplished in 31.5 seconds. It also speeds up the download of 4K videos.

Response Time 

Besides higher speed, the company managed to lower network response time: from current 16-30 millisecond (ms) to below 10 ms on a 4G+ network. This was also achieved by involving more frequencies from the 800, 1800 and 2600 Mhz spectrum and with the combined use of a more developed antenna technology and higher-level module mode. Many, from video game players to stock brokers, could make good use of shorter response times. The 5G network currently under standardization can shred further seconds off and reach a response time of less than a millisecond. This all but real-time response is essential for self-driving cars to keep proper distance or for distance medical services.

Regarding the near future, Telenor says it is continuing to expand its 4G network, supporting theoretical download and upload speeds of 150 Mbps and 50 Mbps in small villages. By the end of last year, the company had made Hipernet speeds available in 1,000 villages of 1,000 to 6,000 people and in 1,100 villages of less than 1,000 people. LTE Advanced technology was deployed at 700 base stations across the country, which means that customers in Budapest, the Balaton area, Győr, Szombathely, Székesfehérvár and Veszprém can now use a Hipernet speed faster than 4G. By 2017 yearend, the company expects its 4G service to be made available in 500 villages with a population of less than 6,000. It is also working on improving its indoor values to ensure network stability in rooms several walls away from the street.

As part of its most recent network development, Vodafone launched its 1,800 MHz LTE service in Budapest and its catchment area, on top of the 800 MHz LTE service used up to now, as part of its most recent network development. In doing so it has increased the maximum bandwidth available for 4G services from 10 MHz to 20 MHz. The company has combined the capacities of the two spectra using the most up-to-date technologies available. Thanks to the doubled bandwidth and so-called Carrier Aggregation technology, mobile services are reaching a much higher quality, and becoming more stable and faster for all customers using 4G enabled handsets in Budapest and its catchment area, the company said. Carrier Aggregation was piloted by Vodafone in Tatabánya. As a result, besides Budapest, 4G+ services have also become available in the county seat of Komárom-Esztergom County. The development ran from last November until the beginning of 2017. Vodafone will continue to roll out this service in numerous other towns of various sizes, the firm stated.

Using the 1,800 MHz frequency range, which by now has reached a total capacity of 20 MHz, is reducing the load on the LTE 800 cells, which in itself greatly improves 4G services, as customers can access a larger bandwidth. According to data from Vodafone, the overwhelming majority of smartphones on the market that are younger than two years are Carrier Aggregation enabled. This means that, as a result of this development, their users have access to 4G+ services that are much faster than the service offered before, facilitating theoretical download speeds of up to 150 Mbit/s, Vodafone said.

HD Downloads 

This speed allows users to download a high resolution (HD) film in just a few minutes, and enjoy on-line streaming services without interruption, in excellent quality. 4G+ services can typically be used with handsets that are not older than two years and can also run on the LTE 1,800 MHz network. However, only certain smartphones display this combined network as ‘4G+’, while others still show ‘4G’.

The launch of the 1,800 MHz LTE network makes it possible for numerous customers, who use handsets that do not allow them to connect to the 800 MHz LTE network, to access 4G services. As a result, 4G services will become available to more than 35,000 of Vodafone’s existing customers, the company says. 

The company has also improved its indoor coverage throughout greater Budapest, offering faster-than-before call set-up and better voice quality for the 4G users, as well as much better indoor coverage than previously on the 3G network. The network development project which ran from June 2016 till the end of November 2016 affected almost 700 sites and 2,000 cells in the greater Budapest area, as well as in neighboring towns such as Érd, Szentendre and Budaörs.