At a joint event with Qualcomm yesterday, T-Mobile said it has now expanded its advanced LTE coverage with support for gigabit speeds to 430 markets across the U.S. T-Mobile added that the combination of network technologies that make such connectivity possible are paving the way for the next stage of wireless communications: 5G.

During the media event in San Jose, Calif., T-Mobile and Qualcomm demonstrated how smartphones powered by Qualcomm's Snapdragon Gigabit LTE modems can use LTE Advanced (LTE-A) to stream 3D virtual reality content, provide "near instantaneous" access to cloud-based files, and quickly download TV shows and movies for offline viewing.

According to the mobile network performance monitoring company OpenSignal, 4G LTE connectivity provides average download speeds of 16.6 Mbps, compared to 4.4 Mbps for 3G. By contrast, 5G networks, when they become available, could eventually support download speeds of up to 10 Gbps.

LTE-A Footprint 'More than Doubled'

T-Mobile in recent years has rolled out a number of new technologies and business strategies aimed at boosting its LTE network speeds and performance. In June, for instance, the wireless carrier demonstrated what it said was the country's first mobile broadband data session using License Assisted Access, with tests showing download speeds of 741 Mbps.

In April, T-Mobile spent nearly $8 billion -- far more than any other wireless service provider -- to acquire low-band spectrum during a Federal Communications Commission auction. The company is using that spectrum to expand a 600 MHz LTE network in rural and underserved parts of the U.S. Yesterday, the company said it had more than doubled its LTE-A footprint since 2016.

In a tweet yesterday, T-Mobile CTO Neville Ray said the company now supported LTE Advanced in 920 markets, with 430 regions seeing even faster network speeds through a combination of carrier aggregation, 4x4 MIMO (multiple-input and multiple-output), and 256 QAM (quadrature amplitude modulation) for boosted data transmission. "LTE-A can up to double download speed & the trifecta can up to double it again," Ray tweeted.

U.S. Currently 5th Place in LTE Availability

"In addition to providing blazing fast mobile connectivity, gigabit-class LTE enables operators to expand network capacity to accommodate increasing demands by unlimited data plans, and increases overall spectral efficiency, enabling faster speeds for all users in the network," Qualcomm's Mike Finley said in a statement yesterday, noting that LTE-A development is picking up speed globally.

The Qualcomm/T-Mobile event featured demonstrations of T-Mobile's LTE-A network using Snapdragon 835-powered devices, including the Samsung Galaxy S8, Samsung Galaxy Note8, Moto Z2 Force Edition, and LG V30.

According to OpenSignal's most recent "State of LTE" report, released earlier this month, South Korea currently leads in 4G network coverage, with nationwide availability of 96.69 percent. The U.S. currently stands in fifth place -- behind South Korea, Japan, Norway, and Hong Kong -- with 4G availability of 86.94 percent.

"While LTE availability is increasing worldwide, the same can't be said for LTE speeds," the OpenSignal report added. "No new country has joined the 40-Mbps club since our last report, and the number of countries that averaged speeds greater than 20 Mbps has fallen, rather than increased."