T-Mobile launches speedy LTE-U service in six cities

It's also squaring off against AT&T in tests for even faster LTE networks.

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Justin Sullivan/Getty Images
Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

The war over speedier LTE data is heating up in a big, big way. T-Mobile has launched LTE-U (that is, LTE riding on unlicensed frequencies) in parts of a handful of cities, including T-Mobile's home turf in Bellevue as well as Brooklyn, Dearborn, Las Vegas, Richardson and Simi Valley. If you have a compatible device (just the Galaxy S8 for now), it'll take advantage of public 5GHz wireless to give your service a boost. And if that's not fast enough, both T-Mobile and AT&T are offering a peek at the next wave of not-quite-5G speeds.

Both carriers have announced that they're field-testing LTE-LAA (LTE License Assisted Access) that promises hundreds of megabits per second by combining open 5GHz wireless with licensed airwaves. In practice, that could deliver performance better than your internet connection at home. AT&T's San Francisco test managed a brisk 650Mbps, while T-Mobile's Los Angeles experiment has reached an even quicker 741Mbps.

It'll likely be a while before you see LAA in real life. Remember, AT&T's existing faux 5G service is barely up and running -- it's going to take longer before a faster technology is ready for American networks. And that's not including the need for manufacturers to hop aboard. Still, both tests are promising. Just as sped-up 3G made it easier to wait for LTE rollouts several years ago, LTE-LAA could give you a taste of 5G-like speeds while you wait for true 5G to reach your city.

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