With Bell announcing that they had begun to roll out 700Mhz LTE (band 17) in Upper Hamilton, myself, HC no 'i' and Steve Punter decided to go to Upper Hamilton to figure out how extensive the roll out is. We took along a Samsung Galaxy S4 with a Bell SIM card. We also brought along a Galaxy S4 with a TELUS SIM to figure out if TELUS is allowed on Bell's 700Mhz.
We hunted the 700Mhz towers using Steve's very cool LTE Widget (not available on the Google Playstore but you can ask him for it).
My cynical side figured 700Mhz was only located on one tower but we actually found 5:
- Upper Sherman & Rymal
- West 5th and Lime Ridge
- Upper James & Fennell
- Mohawk & Rice Avenue
- East 25th & Concession.
There may be more but that's all we found. Anyways, not a huge roll out but we still found 500% more than I was expecting.
700Mhz is not found on every single Bell site in the area . They're actually pretty spaced apart.
As far as signal strength goes, not all the towers aren't turned up very high. Right next to one of the tower our phone told us that we had a signal strength of -64dbm which isn't very strong given our proximity. Then again another appeared to be running at full strength. I wonder how tuned the towers are.
The 700Mhz is a 5Mhz pairing so the maximum speed is only 37.5Mbps. Just to compare, Bell's band 4 (AWS) is a 10Mhz pairing (up to 100Mbps) while their band 7 (2600Mhz) is a 20Mhz pairing (up to 150Mbps). We ran a few speed tests and got up to 21Mbps.
So, it looks like band 17 is not all about speed. Assuming 700Mhz penetrates as well as we've heard it's going to be more about indoor and rural coverage. Since the maximum speed is 37.5Mbps and since it's meant more for rural coverage I wonder if these 2 things work against each other. Rural coverage usually means less towers but since the maximum speed is only 37.5Mbps they might need to built more if a lot of users are consuming a lot of data simultaneously. After all, if you usually get 1/6 of a pairing's theoretical maximum then 1/6 of 37.5Mbps is approximately 6Mbps which is very useful but not particularly fast.
We tried to get the S4 running TELUS onto Bell's band 17 but it's not allowed on. So, for now at least, TELUS isn't allowed on Bell's 700Mhz.
Look at the screenshot taken with the TELUS phone, it says band 17 is available but the phone isn't able to get on (notice the no service indicator on the signal bar).
Note that this is different than how TELUS see's Bell's Band 7 (2600Mhz). When it comes to Bell's Band 7 Telus phones don't see it at all so maybe TELUS might get to use it later.
The 3 of us got to bask in 700Mhz for the first time in Canada. It should be interesting to see how the roll out goes and what real world benefits it brings.