Operator claims U.S. first in partnership with Qualcomm, Motorola.

Sprint this week became the first U.S. mobile operator to demonstrate Gigabit LTE on its live network.

The operator aggregated three, 20 MHz channels of 2.5-GHz TDD spectrum in combination with 4×4 multiple input, multiple output (MIMO), and 256 quadrature amplitude modulation (QAM). Connected to the network was an upcoming Motorola smartphone equipped with Qualcomm’s new X16 LTE modem, which supports LTE category 16 (cat 16).

The demonstration took place on Thursday in New Orleans, at the Smoothie King Center – home of the New Orleans Pelicans NBA basketball team.

Sprint said it plans to offer Gigabit LTE in high-traffic locations across the country.

"Only Sprint has enough licensed spectrum to deliver this level of capacity and performance in major markets across the country," claimed John Saw, CTO of Sprint.

Sprint holds 204 MHz of spectrum in the U.S., including 160 MHz of 2.5-GHz spectrum in the top 100 markets.

"Our high-band 2.5-GHz TDD LTE spectrum is uniquely suited for Gigabit class LTE, and we fully intend to maximise or deep spectrum holdings to provide customers with more immersive and connected mobile experiences," Saw said.

The deployment of Gigabit LTE services will begin with three-carrier aggregation, followed by cat 16 devices that support 4×4 MIMO and 256-QAM, Sprint said.

The operator said it also plans to add further capacity to its mobile network using massive MIMO, one of the key components of 5G. With massive MIMO, Sprint hopes to increase maximum speeds to 3 Gbps-6 Gbps.