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5G moves one step closer as EE shows off Gigabit LTE

5G mobile networks have come a step closer to reality following a new announcement from Qualcomm and EE today.

The two companies have teamed up with Sony to show off Europe’s first commercial Gigabit LTE network, offering quicker mobile download speeds than ever before.

In a live test at London’s Wembley Stadium, the new network reached a download speed of 698MBps - quick enough to download an 4K-quality film in a matter of seconds, and up to twice as fast as the UK quickest commercial fibre broadband offering.

EE says that its tests, carried out on a Sony Xperia XZ Premium device powered by Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 835 processor, have seen the network hit as high as 750MBps, with the development helping the company on its way to launching 5G networks in time for the 2020 deadline.

"Gigabit LTE is definitely the stepping stone towards 5G,” Roberto Di Pietro, Qualcomm Europe vice president of business development, said at the launch. “It is a teaser for what 5G can bring - it's not all about big data rates, it's also about better coverage, better user experience."

Di Pietro added that the technology isn’t just being limited to the UK, as 37 countries currently have the infrastructure in place that is needed to support Gigabit LTE. For now 26 operators in 18 countries are trialling the technology, meaning more users should be able to benefit soon.

The technology isn’t just about quicker download speeds, however, as further demos showed how the network can deliver more capacity to existing infrastructure, allowing more efficient connections for all users not just those with Gigabit LTE-equipped devices. In theory, devices with the faster network will be able  complete downloads and uploads significantly faster, freeing up network resources to be available for other users.

EE, which says its 4G network covers 97 per cent of the UK population, is the first operator to support superfast Cat 16 LTE connections, meaning more users are able to benefit from faster download and upload speeds.

Mike Moore is Deputy Editor at TechRadar Pro, and has worked as a B2B and B2C tech journalist for nearly a decade, including at one of the UK's leading national newspapers and ITProPortal.