Telstra, in collaboration with Netgear, has developed the first Gigabit LTE Mobile Router – the Nighthawk M1 – which, as you may have gathered from the title, is capable of (theoretically, under great conditions) providing around 1000mbits of download speed and 150mbps of upload. It’s a phenomenal effort in providing best case hardware, especially since it now makes Telstra “the fastest” mobile network in the world. It’s a funky looking device too, with a nice little display detailing your ever-shrinking quota.
But how did they do it without developing a brand new data standard? Let’s look at the specifications.
• Max 1 Gbps download speeds & 150 Mbps upload speeds
• LTE CAT 16, LTE Advanced 4-band CA, 4×4 MIMO
• Up to 4X Carrier Aggregation
• LTE/4G 700/900/1800/2100/2600 MHz
• Dimensions: 105.5 (L) x 105.5 (W) x 20.35 (H) mm
• Weight: 240 g (with battery)
• Battery: 5040mAh for up to 24 hours of use
Looking at these numbers and acronyms, it’s clear we aren’t in the realm of 5G yet. The M1 still uses 4G, but cleverly uses a combination of MIMO (for the Wifi component) and LTE Advanced/LTE CAT16 (for the mobile) technology, which essentially are both forms of bonded and multi-antenna aggregation. Without getting too bogged down in the detail, aggregation straps up to 10 different connections using four antennas together as one, essentially quadrupling a standard 4GX connection (which tends to be between 150 and 300mbits).
This is where Qualcomm comes in, having developed the Snapdragon X16 LTE modem about a year ago, with plans to implement a smaller version into one of its upcoming Snapdragon chipsets, which mostly power Android phones and tablets. Using aggregation isn’t much of a new prospect – it has been the underlying technology that cable internet runs off (DOCSIS bonds various channels together to provide ever increasing speed profiles), as well as the method in which fixed wireless and Wi-fi, through MIMO, utilise to appreciate higher speeds without developing new standards or assuming additional frequencies.
One worrying aspect, however, is that while these speeds are impressive, as is the underlying technology providing them, little has been done to make data less expensive. Currently, Telstra charges $55/month for a mobile device and 15gb of data. On a 1gbit device, this could be engulfed in less than 15 minutes – especially when attached to a laptop or a desktop running the usual gamut of applications hungry for large, regular updates on a whim.
Until mobile data is sold in chunks of 50 or 100gb (ie. Those plans should be a factor of 10 larger), then this technology isn’t useful in the real world at all.