SFR targets 99% 4.5G coverage by 2018 after successful MIMO trial

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French operator SFR has doubled down on efforts to extend 4.5G across its network after it hit 628.31MBps in a 4x4 MIMO trial on LTE.

Working with Huawei, SFR achieved the speeds on a commercially available phone by combining 4x4 MIMO with two-band carrier aggregation and 256QAM. The trial saw the first pre-commercial field verification of 4x4 MIMO in France.

The operator said in a statement that the “outstanding” performance had led to SFR resolving to “intensify its investment in LTE technology”.

It plans to extend 4.5G to 90 percent of its customers by the end of 2017 and 99 percent by 2018.

According to Michel Paulin, Chairman and CEO of SFR Group, the operator has achieved an average downlink throughput of 300MBps in its 4.5G footprint, which spans 221 cities, allowing a 10GB video to be downloaded within 4 minutes and 30 seconds.

It now plans to increase this to 500MBps by 2018.

SFR has seen mobile data traffic grow as much as 100 percent over the past two years and launched an unlimited data package in April to cope with the escalating demand.

Paulin said: "SFR's goal is to build the best and fastest 4.5G network in France. This will both improve our customers' lives with the best available telecommunications service, and also pave the way for the future, since a successful transition to 5G will depend first on 4.5G successes.”

Paulin added that SFR would “actively promote” the most sophisticated 4x4 MIMO smartphones, which include the latest devices by Samsung, HTC and Huawei.

Last week, Vodafone UK said it already has 180 sites live with 4x4 MIMO.

Turkcell recently achieved 480MBps in a live FDD massive MIMO test.