Earlier this month 8ta said that customers within 8ta’s LTE coverage areas across the Gauteng region will be able to apply to participate in the trial from 1 November 2012 until 31 March 2013. The LTE service offered for the trial will include a 50GB data bundle and an LTE enabled device.
Maharaj said that they will offer consumers the option of a Wi-Fi enabled LTE router or a Mi-Fi type portable router. In areas with weak signal strength users will be furnished with an LTE router with an external antenna.
Maharaj explained that their LTE focus for the next 18 months will be to provide high speed broadband access (hence data), with on device services like mobile calls to follow later.
8ta’s LTE trial will only be available in Gauteng, but the company is extending its network to Cape Town and Durban in its first launch phase.
8ta is using 3 carriers of 20Mhz each in the 2,300Mhz spectrum band for its LTE deployment. This configuration, Maharaj explained, will give consumers the best possible experience on 8ta’s LTE network.
8ta is further using TD-LTE (Time-Division Long-Term Evolution), giving them the ability to create an asymmetric service by using more spectrum for downlinks than for uplinks.
Maharaj explained that they currently have a 3:1 configuration (3 times more spectrum used for downlinks than for uplinks), with real world download speeds peaking at 90Mbps and upload speeds of up to 25Mbps.
Most of 8ta’s LTE sites are served by fibre backhaul links – a requirement which Maharaj said is essential to ensure high performance levels.
In a live demonstration at the MyBroadband Conference 8ta showed LTE speeds of up to 80Mbps.
Ready for commercial launch
According to Maharaj there is nothing stopping them from launching LTE commercially, but they wanted to first get feedback from real world users to ensure that they offer a high quality service.
He added that they will draw strongly from the trial to establish what consumers use the service for, and then develop commercial products based on these usage patterns.
Maharaj explained that users can expect high usage packages like 50GB and 100GB from 8ta, but that they will not offer uncapped services as the technology is simply not suited for an uncapped environment.
While 8ta is still working on pricing for its LTE services, Maharaj said that it will be affordable and will suit the purpose of an ADSL replacement option in areas where this is needed.