4.5G? What is MTN on about?


As we recently reported, MTN Zambia is going to be trialling 4.5G. MTN Zambia claim to be Zambia’s leading network and are looking to further cement that claim by launching 4.5G. How many people know what 4.5G is?

What is 4.5G?

Warning, there may be some acronyms loosely thrown around! 4.5G a marketing phrase that also extends to the following LTE+, 4G+, 4GX, or 4G LTE ULTRA; all those are ploys to get you to see faster/bigger but are LTE Advanced at their core. LTE or Long Term Evolution, as Erik explained in our What is in a G is an evolution of a WiMAX technology. LTE is IP (internet protocol) based meaning it is built from the ground up to support the internet unlike previous data transmission technologies HSPDA or HSDA+ (3G) that viewed data in the supporting role to voice. Being IP based is a huge advantage when it comes to speed and spectral efficiency. To the end user it means browsing is faster and for the mobile companies it means they can do more with less spectrum. In Zambia, the 2 dominant players are MTN and Vodafone when it comes to LTE.

4G LTE ULTRA, that is the best gimmicky all you can eat superlative marketing phrase ever! or LTE Advanced are a collection of release 10 of the 3GPP standards. Currently, the standard is Release 13. All the 3GPP group tries to do is ensure a base set of standards that the manufacturers of base stations and cell phones adhere to, to ensure your phone works on all networks. These standards play an important part in ensuring global markets for all the players involved. Back to LTE-A.

LTE-A as with most technology is about sorting out the kinks in LTE and leveraging on new technological breakthroughs. The key focus of LTE-A is greater throughputs. The reasoning behind increasing the throughputs is 3 fold:

  • A greater number of smartphones, meaning more data requirements per cell site (the providers need more efficiency per Mhz of spectrum)
  • We are doing more on our devices; streaming video in HD, video chatting to friends or using home routers that use LTE
  • The coming of the Internet of Things

Data is the future. The sooner mobile networks realise that the better. We now expect the same level of service whether we are plugged into a fibre cable or browsing at our favourite restaurant. The 3GPP standard for LTE-A sets the following lofty goals:

  • Increased peak data rate, DL 3 Gbps, UL 1.5 Gbps (yes that is a G for Gigabits)
  • Higher spectral efficiency, from a maximum of 16bps/Hz in R8 to 30 bps/Hz in R10
  • Increased number of simultaneously active subscribers
  • Improved performance at cell edges, e.g. for DL 2×2 MIMO at least 2.40 bps/Hz/cell

Now a disclaimer. Those speeds are the stuff of dreams because LTE speed standard is 1Gb/s for a user in a fixed position or 100Mb/s per user in motion. Good luck getting any of those in the real world. All those speeds are in laboratory conditions where allocated spectrum and signal fade is non-existent. That said, at a theoretical level 4.5G is 3 times as fast as LTE.

LTE-A will help the providers balance their deployments to ensure a seamless coverage for their users. The coverage will be comprised of macro large cell sites (cover a large area) and pico cell sites (small area). Pico cell sites are very important for the providers when it comes to covering multi-storey building, indoor malls, and sections of stadiums. The sites can be installed at a low cost to the provider whilst matching the throughput of the larger more traditional macro sites. 4.5G will cram more bits in each Mhz of spectrum. Spectrum is extremely expensive with auctions in the USA and UK raising billions of dollars for the relevant regulator.

Whilst LTE-A is nice and sounds great, the obvious question follows. Will I be able to use it? If your device was made in the last year you should be ok. Wikipedia has an entry with a list of devices that will work on LTE-A, we have picked out the main vendors below but you can click here to check if your handset is compatible.


Name Category Max speed
iPhone 6 Smartphone 150 Mbit/s
iPhone 6 Plus Smartphone 150 Mbit/s
iPhone SE Smartphone 150 Mbit/s
iPhone 6S Smartphone 300 Mbit/s (2CA)
iPhone 6S Plus Smartphone 300 Mbit/s (2CA)
iPhone 7 Smartphone 450 Mbit/s (3CA)
iPhone 7 Plus Smartphone 450 Mbit/s (3CA)
iPad Pro Tablet 300 Mbit/s (2CA)


Ascend Mate 7 Smartphone 300 Mbit/s
E5175 Router 300 Mbit/s
E5186 Router 300 Mbit/s
E5786 Mobile Hotspot 300 Mbit/s
Honor 6 Smartphone 300 Mbit/s
Huawei Mate S Smartphone 300 Mbit/s
HUAWEI P9+ Smartphone 300 Mbit/s (2CA)
Wi-Fi STATION HW-02G Mobile Hotspot 225 Mbit/s
Huawei P9 Lite Smartphone 300 Mbit/s


Galaxy Note 7 Smartphone Cat.12 / LTE Cat.10 / LTE Cat.9[35]
Galaxy Note 5 Smartphone Cat.9 450 Mbit/s (2CA)
Galaxy Note 4 Smartphone Cat.6 300 Mbit/s
Galaxy Note 4 S-LTE Smartphone Cat.9 450 Mbit/s (2CA)
Galaxy Note Edge Smartphone Cat.6 300 Mbit/s (2CA)
Galaxy Alpha Smartphone Cat.6 300 Mbit/s
Galaxy A8 Smartphone Cat.6 300 Mbit/s
Galaxy A5 (2016) Smartphone Cat.6 300 Mbit/s
Galaxy A7 (2016) Smartphone Cat.6 300 Mbit/s
Galaxy A9 pro Smartphone Cat.6 300 Mbit/s (2CA)
Galaxy S5 Smartphone Cat.4 150 Mbit/s
Galaxy S5 LTE+ Smartphone Cat.6 300 Mbit/s
Galaxy S5 Neo Smartphone Cat.6 300 Mbit/s
Galaxy S6 Smartphone Cat.6 300 Mbit/s
Galaxy S6 Edge Smartphone Cat.6 300 Mbit/s (2CA)
Galaxy S6 Edge+ Smartphone Cat.9 450 Mbit/s (2CA)
Galaxy S7 Smartphone Cat.9 450 Mbit/s (3CA)


For no other reason except that I am an HTC man. My handset the HTC 10, is 4G LTE ULTRA 4.5G capable 🙂

We hope the other operators can follow suit. MTN Zambia, we cannot wait and hope we get the chance to test drive the network. I personally expect download speeds to be between 50Mbs and 100Mbs in real world applications in Zambia.

Source of tables: Wikipedia

Image Source: Techmoran