8ta LTE tested: get ready to be impressed

8ta opened its LTE network to a group of public testers in October, giving them an opportunity to use the company’s high speed broadband service free of charge. 8ta has now opened up its network for the media to test, and the results were very impressive.

8ta is 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. The current configuration is 3:1 – hence 3 times more spectrum is used for downloads than for uploads.

8ta has 60MHz spectrum in the 2,300MHz band for its LTE network, and is currently using 3 carriers of 20MHz each (15MHz downlink and 5MHz uplink) to optimize the performance for typical Internet users.

Testing 8ta’s LTE

MyBroadband tested 8ta’s LTE service in various locations in the Pretoria and Centurion area, and what became clear was that location had a significant impact on performance.

To be in a well covered area was obviously better, but what was surprising is that relatively small changes within a covered area resulted in significant changes in performance. For example, moving from an indoor setting to outside increased the performance by over 100% in some cases.

8ta LTE test area
8ta LTE test area

8ta pointed out that the preferred system for them is when subscribers use an LTE router in a fixed setting – using an external antenna where needed. It is clear, from our tests, that this will ensure the best possible performance.

MyBroadband used a Huawei E392 USB LTE dongle and a Huawei B593 LTE router to test the service.

Huawei B593 router and Huawei E392 USB dongle
Huawei B593 router and Huawei E392 USB dongle

Peak results

MyBroadband tested 8ta’s LTE service using web based speed tests (MyBroadband’s speed test server and Speedtest.net), large file downloads and BitTorrent services.

In well covered areas the results were excellent. Download speeds peaked at 60Mbps while upload speeds peaked at around 10Mbps.

8ta LTE peak download speed
8ta LTE peak download speed
8ta LTE peak speeds - MyBroadband speed test
8ta LTE peak speeds – MyBroadband speed test
8ta LTE Speedtest.net result
8ta LTE Speedtest.net result

Downloading a large file from TENET’s servers also peaked at around 60Mbps, which clearly shows the great throughput provided by 8ta’s LTE.

Large file download using a download manager
Large file download using a download manager

Local latency ranged between 13ms and 40ms, depending on the location of the server and the network on which the server was hosted.

International latency ranged from below 200ms to around 370ms – again depending on the location of the server.

8ta LTE latency
8ta LTE latency

Downloading large files using BitTorrent did not provide the same peak speeds as shown above, but it should be noted that torrent speeds can be influenced by various factors like the location of the peers and the maximum upload speeds from these peers.

BitTorrent download speed using 8ta LTE
BitTorrent download speed using 8ta LTE

Average performance

The average speed of 8ta’s LTE service in coverage areas typically ranged between 10Mbps and 35Mbps.

The performance proved to be a factor of location rather than network performance. The throughput could easily be improved by moving to a location within the coverage area with better signal strength.

8ta LTE South African test
8ta LTE South African test
8ta LTE speed test to a London server
8ta LTE speed test to a London server

For interest sake MyBroadband also tested the service in locations which were not covered, but were close to covered areas.

These tests were performed without any external antenna, and the results were still fairly good. Download speeds ranged between 2Mbps and 5Mbps – and were again highly dependent on the location.

It is expected that these results can be improved significantly by using an external antenna.

Conclusion

The performance of 8ta’s LTE service was very impressive in well covered areas, and the service still performed well in areas where the coverage was not as good.

It should be noted that the performance was very dependent on signal strength (and hence location), and for the best performance an LTE router with an external antenna will be a good option.

As with any wireless service, the network performance may deteriorate when the service is launched commercially and traffic volume increases.

However, for now the service is excellent, and 8ta’s LTE is, in short, the best mobile broadband service we have ever tested in a real world environment.

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8ta LTE tested: get ready to be impressed