Based on the exhaustive discussion we had with the technical group that’s in charge of the beta testing for Smart LTE yesterday, here are several of the more important information we got from them.
The LTE network will be rolled out separately from their HSPA+ which means we’ll still continue to see more HSPA+ base stations in the coming months (the last count is somewhere around 1400+ sites). The current number of LTE sites is still very limited (just over 20+) but will continue to grow towards 2012.
The current LTE setup has a coverage of only 1.2km (in radius) which is pretty short but that’s how Smart configured it for this test phase. That could mean they will just expand this reach by increasing signal strength. The optimum distance is about 200 to 300 meters away from the site.
The beta phase will last until February 2012 so we won’t see any commercial release before then. That should give Smart ample time to get feedback from beta testers and fine tune the service before the official launch. Just hope that all those beta testers (there will be 130 of them) will provide ample and relevant feedback.
Smart did mention a 50GB monthly cap for the test accounts. We’re not sure if this will also be the same cap once the service rolls out to the public.
There’s no definite pricing plan yet but Smart tells us this is going to be offered as a postpaid plan. They did tell us that this is going to be in the vicinity of “premium plans” which means expensive. If you ask me, I’m looking at a price plan of no lower than Php3,000 a month considering the Power Plug-it 5Mbps is Php1,295.
The LTE dongle used here is the Huawei E392 and supports speeds of up to 42Mbps. However, Smart’s LTE service is pegged at 25Mbps for downlink, not 42Mbps. We’ve yet to take speed tests on the LTE sites mentioned to us.
While the LTE bandwidth is separate from the regular 3G bandwidth, the Huawei E392 can automatically switch back to HSPA when there are no LTE signal in your location. That could mean you will still benefit from all those 1400+ HSPA+ sites around the country and still get speeds of up to 12Mbps like the SmartBro Rocket.
Still haven’t found that LTE signal I hunted down at MOA this morning. For the meantime, I am able to configure it to set at HSPA+ the whole day and seems to be working fine.
However, this is the best speed at HSPA+ I got this afternoon.
The results are optimistic and I’m dying to see how that LTE speeds live up to its promise. Maybe I’ll be lucky tomorrow.