by Andrew J. Shepherd
Sprint 4G Rollout Updates
Friday, November 14, 2014 - 7:46 AM MST
'Tis the season for turkey and tablets, pumpkin pie and "phablets." So, whet your appetites, and get ready for a movable feast -- or should I say, a mobile feast.
Welcome to the first annual S4GRU holiday shopping guide. This may be nothing more than a one year tradition. We shall see. But we have definitely fallen behind this fall on publishing articles following FCC OET (Office of Engineering and Technology) authorizations of notable devices headed to or at least compatible with the Sprint network.
Playing catch up, here is a quick rundown on the RF capabilities of the Motorola Nexus 6, Samsung Galaxy Edge, and cellular variant HTC Nexus 9 -- all of which have passed through the FCC OET and been released in the past few weeks or are to be released in the next few weeks.
Not the purview of S4GRU, but all of the processor, RAM, screen resolution, and other specs are already out there on the Interwebs. If you need that info, refer to those sources. Thus, these brief looks at two "phablets" and one cellular tablet will be focused on their tested/projected RF performance -- particularly as that pertains to the Sprint network.
To begin, the Motorola Nexus 6 ends up being the first fully CCA/RRPP compliant LTE handset -- supporting domestic LTE bands 2/4/5/12/25/26/41 -- and, for good measure, adding in LTE bands 7/13/17 for use in Canada, on VZW, and on AT&T. S4GRU first reported that CCA/RRPP band abundance of the supposed Sprint variant 2014 Motorola X a few months ago, but for unknown reasons, that handset never saw the light of day after it passed through the FCC OET. Its Motorola brother, which suffers from the hormonal disorder gigantism, though, picks up that slack and then some.
Yes, the Nexus 6 represents a gigantic increase in size and price -- a curious decision if there ever was one. But it does appear to hold up its very large end of the bargain in RF prowess, maxing out in the roughly the 20-26 dBm range across all supported LTE bands. That is pretty good performance, particularly for band 41, which appears to enjoy an approximately 3 dBi antenna gain. This projects to be the strong performer that many had hoped for based on Motorola's RF reputation.
Next up, the Samsung Galaxy Edge is truly on the cutting edge. And that refers not to just its curvy edged screen form factor. It is the first North American handset to support band 41 carrier aggregation. See the FCC OET filing table below:
In fact, it is the first North American handset known to support LTE TDD carrier aggregation and intra band LTE carrier aggregation -- rather than inter band carrier aggregation, as we have seen in several AT&T variant handsets this year. That said, it is limited to two carrier aggregation with a maximum total bandwidth of 40 MHz TDD. Three carrier aggregation devices with a maximum total bandwidth of 60 MHz TDD will not make an appearance until sometime next year.
And that is basically the good news. The rest of the news is not as good. The Galaxy Edge supports none of the additional CCA/RRPP bands -- not even bands 2/5, which are just subsets of bands 25/26, respectively. Moreover, the LTE ERP/EIRP is not very impressive. Fortunately, it looks hardly as poor in that regard as last year's VZW variant Galaxy Note 3 -- maybe the worst that we have ever seen in a flagship caliber smartphone -- but it averages just 17-20 dBm max output across bands 25/26/41. And, for reference, that runs about 2-3 dB worse than that of its recent Sprint variant Galaxy Note 4 sibling.
The news could be worse, however. To conclude, just look at the cellular variant HTC Nexus 9 tablet. On the bright side, it, too, is a fully CCA/RRPP compliant device -- bands 2/4/5/12/25/26/41 -- also adding bands 7/13/17 like its Nexus 6 cousin. That band 12 tablet inclusion trumps even all Apple iPads for likely the next year. But the bright side does not extend beyond that in terms of actual RF.
Originally, Google proclaimed the Nexus 9 to be a 3GPP/3GPP2 device. Since then, Google has pared that back to a 3GPP only device -- with the odd inclusion of EV-DO. The latter is almost assuredly yet another proofreading error, as the FCC OET authorization docs show no support for 3GPP2. Furthermore, reports are that the Nexus 9 uses a non Qualcomm baseband modem. Not good -- especially for a device that now rivals the iPad in price.
For those who want the shorthand explanation, the cellular variant Nexus 9 looks to be compatible with Sprint -- but only Sprint LTE. It will have no support for Sprint CDMA2000. Additionally, the ERP/EIRP leaves much, much to be desired, averaging only 15-19 dBm maximum across all LTE bands. We generally expect more from antenna design in tablets because of their added size. However, that is certainly not the case with the Nexus 9.
In summation, if you are making your shopping list, checking it twice, everything new in the Sprint stocking this holiday season is at least partly naughty, nothing entirely nice. Too big, too expensive, too focused on form over function, and/or too weak RF. Take your pick.
Happy Thanksgiving? Or Bah Humbug?