Gigabit data on your cell phone… by the end of the year?

Super-fast cell data without waiting for 5G. Is it even possible? A recent article in engadget claims that by using an encoding scheme that’s currently used in cable television, it will be possible to get speeds up to 1000Mbps from your cell phone.

Hold your horses, because even they admit later in the story that you won’t.

LTE, the networking standard used in today’s cell phones, has a “theoretical” maximum of 1Gbps (1000Mbps) in a lab, if all the circuits are empty and you’re getting great reception. But you’ll never get that in the real world. The article says it might be possible to get 100Mbps, and that’s really within reach if there’s plenty of LTE capacity.

The key is reducing overcrowding on LTE circuits and using this new technique actually makes sense. Right now network data is encoded over the line in a way similar to how TV shows are broadcast over the air. It looks something like this:

Using a technique called QAM allows the same information to be represented in 2D, similar to this:

Now, there’s a lot of science and physics involved with how that all works, but what you need to understand is that you can fit a lot more real information in, if you stack it so it looks like the lower picture instead of the upper one. In fact, the technology they’re talking about using isn’t a 2×2 grid like the picture, it’s an 8×8 grid which allows for even more data to flow smoothly.

The good thing about this move, which is rumored to take place by the end of the year for most major carriers, is that it won’t require a new phone. It’s all about how data flows in the network, not how it gets from the cell tower to your phone. So when this new scheme is implemented in your area, things will “just get better” without your having to buy anything. That’s pretty rare in the cell phone world.

As we move forward into 5G, these technologies will work even better and hopefully allow for the same towers we use now to service even more devices at even faster speeds. But that’s tomorrow. Let’s hope engadget is right and that data speeds take a big jump before the end of the year.