French operator achieves 628 Mbps downlink speed with Huawei.

SFR this week said it aims to provide 4.5G coverage to 99% of its customers by 2018, after successfully trialling 4×4 multiple input, multiple output (MIMO) technology with Huawei.

During the trial – the first such trial to be conducted in France – the operator achieved a downlink speed of 628.31 Mbps on a commercially available phone connected to its network. In addition to 4×4 MIMO, SFR also used 256 quadrature amplitude modulation (QAM) and two component carrier (CC) carrier aggregation (CA).

These technologies together comprise core elements of 4.5G, or LTE-Advanced Pro, an incremental step towards 5G.

"SFR’s goal is to build the best and fastest 4.5G network in France. This will both improve our customers’ lives with the best available telecommunications service, and also pave the way for the future, since a successful transition to 5G will depend first on 4.5G successes," said Michel Paulin, chairman and CEO of SFR Group.

As a result of the trial, SFR plans to step up its 4.5G deployment, reaching 90% of customers by the end of this year, and 99% by 2018.

"The large-scale deployment of 4×4 MIMO is essential to the continuous evolution of the 4.5G network," said Kai Song, general manager of Huawei’s France office. "Huawei will innovate persistently to provide cutting-edge solutions for the communications industry in France."