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Tech purchasers should choose high-end handsets for better data rates

Choice of handset modem and network technology will improve 4G network performance, which can be an important consideration in company mobiles

New research has concluded that business mobile users get what they pay for, with high-end devices offering better network technologies.

Because slower download speeds lead to lower performance of mobile network applications and virtual private network connectivity, IT departments tasked with refreshing ageing smartphone handsets should consider higher-end devices if they want to enable mobile users to get the best connectivity.

An independent study conducted by mobile analytics firm OpenSignal, based on taking three billion measurements a day across the world between April and July 2019, found that those devices with gigabit-ready modems achieved better data speeds on standard 4G networks.

In his analysis of the data collected, Ian Fogg, vice-president of research at OpenSignal, said newer and more expensive smartphone models usually support more network capabilities, such as newer versions of the 4G standard and, in a few cases, even 5G.

Smartphone models with a higher LTE category tend to be more expensive and support more network technologies. All 5G smartphone models support at least LTE category 16, but only a few 5G smartphone devices are currently shipping.

According to OpenSignal, the network technologies that handset manufacturers use affect the network performance of their smartphone devices. Modem chipsets commonly found in devices are: Qualcomm, Intel, Huawei HiSilicon and Samsung Exynos.

Mobile networking technologies affect a smartphone’s ability to connect to more frequency bands. Some network data rate optimisations offer the ability to use more than one radio band at the same time through carrier aggregation, to support modulation types (64 or 256 QAM, for example) and use multiple simultaneous antennas (such as 2x2 or 4x4 MIMO).

Fogg said most iPhones lack gigabit-capable modems: iPhone XS and XS Max have such capability, but the current iPhone XR includes a less-capable LTE category 12 modem. However, OpenSignal found that Apple’s mid-range handsets offered slightly better data performance than equivalent mid-tier Samsung and Huawei smartphones.

Given that Apple has now settled its dispute with Qualcomm and last month signed an agreement to acquire Intel’s smartphone modem business, it seems likely that future products across the iPhone family will have gigabit-capable modems.

Read more about mobile networking

  • A new report produced by TechUK and the Liverpool 5G testbed shows how 5G can be used effectively in the NHS, and offers recommendations to government.
  • Telecom networks are evolving thanks to new technologies such as 5G. This evolution will affect various types of organisations, ISPs and available services.

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