In this Signals Ahead report we provide the results of the industry’s first truly independent benchmark study of how an LTE-Advanced (Rel 12) network with 256 QAM performs. This study was conducted using Telstra’s 600 Mbps LTE network in Melbourne, Australia. Highlights of the Study include the following:

  • Our Thanks.  This study was done in collaboration with Accuver Americas who provided us with its suite of drive test products, including XCAL-M to collect the data and XCAP for the post processing and analysis of the data.
  • The Device.  We used a NETGEAR 810S mobile hotspot (Category 11 device) with the Qualcomm Snapdragon X12 LTE modem.
  • The Comparison, I.  Surprisingly, the availability of the 256 QAM modulation scheme in the macro network was on par with the availability of 64 QAM in an HSPA+ network, based on a comparison of these most recent results with earlier tests that we did in the operator’s network in 2009.
  • The Comparison, II.  In some lengthy drive tests we observed 256 QAM more frequently than we observed QPSK.
  • The Forward-Looking View.  Our analysis of Ericsson Lean Carrier (ELC) – Telstra enabled and disabled the feature at our request – suggests that even higher availability of 256 QAM is likely.
  • The Implications.  Despite the original focus of 256 QAM for small cells only, we foresee tremendous advantages associated with deploying 256 QAM throughput an operator’s macro network.