4×4 MIMO

The most important spec to check on your high-end smartphone in South Africa

When comparing the specifications of new high-end smartphones, you may not focus on their mobile networking features. Now that LTE and LTE-A support is no longer a question when buying a flagship device, many people don’t give it a second thought. However, with the next generation of smartphones coming onto the market, people need to check these features before choosing a device.

This is according to Simone Severini, director of technical marketing at Qualcomm in South Africa, and James Munn, vice president of the sub-Saharan region. New smartphones coming onto the market are starting to support two major additions to LTE that will deliver increased speeds on mobile networks:

  1. 4×4 multiple input, multiple output (MIMO) antenna configurations.
  2. Higher-order modulation for devices nearer to towers, specifically quadrature amplitude modulation with 256 symbols in its constellation (256-QAM).

Severini said that 256-QAM requires users to be relatively close to a tower, but that it won’t cause a tower’s coverage area to shrink. Thanks to adaptive modulation, devices outside of the viable range of 256-QAM can use 64-QAM or 16-QAM.

These technologies are supported in Qualcomm’s X16 LTE modem which is built into its Snapdragon 835 platform. On its own, 4×4 MIMO can almost double the downlink speeds on South Africa’s existing LTE networks, and the technology is being trialled by Vodacom and MTN, said Severini. Combined with 256-QAM, networks could achieve a five-fold increase in download speeds on devices that support the technology.

With smartphones launching that support 4×4 MIMO and 256-QAM, the network specifications on high-end devices are becoming as important as when LTE and LTE-A were first launched.

If you’re in the market to upgrade your smartphone, you will want to check whether it supports 256-QAM and 4×4 MIMO to make an informed decision.

Now read: Highest mobile broadband speeds in South Africa – Vodacom vs MTN[1]


  1. ^ Highest mobile broadband speeds in South Africa – Vodacom vs MTN (