LG Nexus 4 (sort of) has 4G LTE

A look inside the Nexus 4 uncovers hidden 4G LTE hardware. But the modem's LTE connectivity is limited to certain international networks.

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In the best example of things being taken, then given, only to be then taken away again, it was recently discovered that the massively popular LG Nexus 4 houses an LTE modem that works... sort of.

The revelation began over at iFixit, which posted a teardown of the Nexus 4 last week. Front images of the motherboard showed a Qualcomm WTR1605L Seven-Band 4G LTE chip. That's right, a 4G LTE chip.

When asked about this, LG crushed all fantastical dreams of a firmware-enabled LTE upgrade to the ground and told TechRadar that despite the given chipset, the device isn't actually LTE-capable.

According to LG, the reason why the LTE chip is there in the first place is because the LTE radio comes packaged with the Qualcomm Snapdragon CPU featured inside, and the processor and modem "cannot be implemented separately." (FYI: This is the same CPU that the 4G LTE-enabled LG Optimus G has.)

LG told TechRadar that unfortunately the only way to get 4G LTE capabilities working in the Nexus 4 would be if you throw "other essential hardware parts such as a signal amplifier and a filter" into the mix.

Now, the story could have ended there -- except the people over at Tek.Gadg posted a video showing that the LTE radio actually does work, huzzah!

Through a relatively simple hack, the handset is shown connecting to Canadian network Telus' 4G LTE network, with speeds reaching up to 25Mbps down and 19Mbps up. In contrast, when we tested the Nexus 4's HSPA+ speeds here in our San Francisco office, average download and upload speeds were 8.15Mpbs and 0.5Mbps, respectively.

More research from AnandTech showed that the device connects to LTE networks operating on Band 4 (AWS).

The Nexus 4's 4G LTE chip is on the top left corner, highlighted in teal. iFixit

While this is great news for Nexus 4 owners in Canada (seriously, I'm really jealous), U.S. users shouldn't get too excited. Neither AT&T's nor Verizon's LTE network runs on Band 4. The former operates on Band 17 and the latter runs on Band 13, while Sprint's runs on Band 25.

But, there may be hope. T-Mobile's 3G network runs on Band 4, so it's not too much to assume that its upcoming 4G LTE network, scheduled for next year , will operate on it as well.

Given all this, it's important to remember that technically having 4G LTE isn't the same thing as actually having it with manufacturer and carrier approval and optimization. Google can easily fix the back-end hack with an update, connections can be spotty, and we don't know what it'll do to battery efficiency.

Still, though, you've got to hand it to the Internet on this one. I'm already anticipating an official 4G LTE-enabled Nexus 4 for the U.S. market sometime in the near future anyway (and when that time comes, we'll be sure to update the review). But this bit of technological sleuthing has definitely made me feel like Christmas came early.

About the author

Lynn La is CNET's associate editor for cell phone and smartphone news and reviews. Prior to coming to CNET, she wrote for the Sacramento Bee and was a staff editor at Macworld. In addition to covering technology, she has reported on health, science, and politics.

 

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