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Sprint will demonstrate super-fast wireless at Mobile World Congress in Barcelona

Why it matters to you

Sprint's next-generation network will be capable of delivering download speeds faster than anything you're probably used to.

Don’t look now, but Sprint’s joining the gigabit club. On Wednesday, the Now Network announced a collaboration with electronics company Ericsson that will have data transferred at 1Gbps over a 4G LTE connection — fast enough to download an HD movie in about eight seconds.

It is scheduled to take place at the upcoming Mobile World Congress conference in Barcelona and Sprint says it is an industry first. To achieve gigabit speeds, Sprint and Ericsson will employ a high-frequency transmitter and techniques like carrier aggregation, which leverages multiple LTE signals, and multi-antenna 4×4 MIMO technology.

More: Intel’s new modem can deliver gigabit download speeds

“This demonstration highlights […] our ability to keep meeting customers growing demand for high-speed bandwidth-intensive applications,” Sprint Chief Technical Officer John Saw said in a press release. “With Gigabit-class performance our customers will have a great experience using 4K and even 8K TV and applications such as HD Virtual Reality on the Sprint LTE Plus network.”

The demonstration is symbolic of Sprint long-term ambitions. The carrier, the fourth-largest in the U.S., will begin testing gigabit 5G technologies in the second half of 2017.

Crucial to its rollout is its spectrum holdings. Sprint owns the largest piece of 2.5GHz spectrum in the U.S., and says that the abundance of bandwidth will help it to achieve ultra-fast speeds in 2017 and 2018. The network’s high frequency will reduce the need for big, expensive cell towers. Sprint also says it is optimized for technologies like high-power user equipment (HPUE) that will help to extend its coverage further.

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At an event in December, Saw said that most of Sprint’s new phones will be activated to work with the technologies in the first half of 2017.

Australia carrier Telstra upgraded its 4G LTE network to gigabit capacity last year, but it’s the world’s first — and only — to do so thus far. At the Consumer Electronics Show in January, AT&T said it expected to achieve widespread 4G LTE speeds of 1Gbps thanks to “optimizations” and “thousands” of new antennas. Verizon began testing 1Gbps connectivity in select cities earlier this year, and Sprint said that it would deliver 1Gbps speeds in 2017. T-Mobile, meanwhile, claims that it’s the only network in the U.S. to have measured 1Gbps on its existing network.

Most smartphones today can’t reach gigabit speeds, but new chips will change that. Intel recently announced the XM 7650, a new modem that delivers downloads up to 1Gbps across all carriers in the U.S. And Qualcomm’s X16 modem, which powers ZTE’s recently announced Gigabit-capable concept phone, can handle up to 1.2Gbps.