Review Qatar's First 4G LTE Network

Published on April 5th, 2013 | by The TechView Team

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Qatar’s first 4G LTE network – A pre-launch review of Ooredoo 4G

While next generation 4G networks are already rolled out in various countries in the GCC & Middle East, Qatar’s first 4G network is only about to launch this month and we have an exclusive review weeks prior to launch right here.

Ooredoo, formerly known to everyone as Qtel, has been carrying out 4G LTE tests in Qatar for over 6-9 months, during which several testers have been allowed to make unlimited use of the trial network to help stress test the network prior to launch.

Both Ooredoo and Vodafone Qatar currently offer 2G and 3G connectivity in the country – Ooredoo’s HSPA+ 21mbps network compared to Vodafone’s 14.4 mbps. We’ve had over 2 months to play around with Ooredoo’s trial LTE network and the results have been impressive.

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The Speed:

Download speeds: Stated (upto) 100mbps
Real Life download speeds – 25mbps – 80mbps
Upload speeds – upto 40 mbps (tested)
Ping – Between 20 – 40ms

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The speeds we have seen over a wireless network through just a USB Mobile Broadband dongle are amazing. We were able to download a 750MB torrent in under 4 minutes. The latest music album over iTunes? Took us under 40 seconds. Remember the days of buffering YouTube videos? We haven’t seen that, even on 1080p! This really is the next big thing in mobile networks.

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While the pros of 4G LTE network are fantastic, there are a few downsides.

Chances are, the service will be launched with an added “4G LTE” key. This is the same additional charge that nearly all other operators across the region are charging. Do we mind it? Yes. It’s an additional charge. Do we care once we’ve logged onto the network? No. Any additional charge, depending on how much it is, is well worth the huge speed bump that is seen over the air.

Coverage

 

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While this is a review of an unlaunched network, the coverage map area will more or less be the same upon launch. Ooredoo 4G is propositioned to be an outdoor solution to super fast speeds while on the move. Most of our tests were carried out indoors, but even on 1 or 2 bars of signal, the speeds were way faster than any 3G service we’ve tested.

The key areas for 4G are all around Doha and Sealine beach. The network still needs a lot of work to expand into other cities in Qatar, and we’re told this should complete by end of year 2013.

Devices

While we tested a Huawei E392 USB Mobile Broadband and a Huawei E589 MyFi Mobile Hotspot, we’re told these devices are not going to be the ones Ooredoo will launch with. The Huawei devices tend to generate a LOT of heat. Remember those early 3G chipsets? It’ll be a matter of time until device manufacturers develop more power efficient, faster devices as the LTE technology develops.

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Our speeds were considerably faster on the USB Mobile Broadband as compared to the Mobile Hotspot. The Mobile Hotspot is a perfect solution for those who want to share their 4G connectiion on a phone, tablet, laptop, etc. although we never saw speeds of over 35mbps on the MyFi.
Personal phones & tablets – After a few trials, we’ve realized that the 4G service currently under test is a data only service. Which means you will not be able to use this on your iPhone, for eg. The 4G LTE service with Voice is stated to be launched later this year.

Conclusion

4G LTE service is something we have been waiting for, for a long time. It’s a huge step forward in enabling consumers and businesses to get their work done faster and stay in touch with friends and family. Ooredoo have done a fantastic job at setting up the network in the most frequently used places – Airport, West Bay, etc. and the speeds are beyond amazing. While Vodafone have still not announced a trial or any work on their own LTE network, we expect them to make some sort of an official annoucement only by end of 2013 at the earliest.

We would recommend that, upon launch, customers check the 4G map to see if their offices and homes are under the coverage area before committing to the service. If you’re going to mostly use it as a replacement for your fixed internet connection (which we already have), we recommend you get the USB Mobile Broadband as that gives you much faster speeds.

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