SMART rolls out LTE closed beta test, promises speeds up to 42 Mbps

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We’re fresh from Smart’s Jump Experience Center in Megamall where the telco just handed the first units of their Smart Evolution LTE dongles to select beta participants. The beta test aims to help Smart stress test their current LTE infrastructure so they’ll be able to spot trouble areas early and hopefully address those issues before the eventual commercial roll-out sometime next year.

LTE if you’re not familiar, represents the next evolution of cellular technology and promises speeds greater than 50 Mbps on mobile devices. Smart’s initial widespread beta test (there was another one earlier this year in Boracay) is going to be powered by a Huawei E392 LTE USB dongle that’s theoretically capable of 42 Mbps. Smart tells us that they’re initially targeting select areas for the beta test, which include some prominent areas such as Makati, UP Diliman, Ateneo, Xavierville and SM MoA. Unfortunately, our home office based in West Triangle QC was not included in the initial sites that had LTE, but Smart assured us that they’d be putting up additional towers for better coverage as the beta goes on.

The LTE dongle itself is pretty big, and is definitely bigger than the other USB dongles we’ve used in the past. There’s provisions on the sides to access the microSD and SIM slot. Speaking of SIMs, Smart has provided us with a specially provisioned SIM card to use with the dongle, which is capped at 50 GB per month.

We tried our hardest to pry final product availability and pricing information from Smart execs present during the event, but alas, they couldn’t give us a solid timeframe when the service is going to roll out commercially, or how much it was going to charge for it, aside from saying that it’s a premium service and will be priced accordingly. But the fact that they’re opening up the beta test to about 130 select people means that they’re possibly gearing up for a commercial launch soon, and we wouldn’t be surprised if the company does a launch for it on the second quarter of next year.

Unfortunately though, the Smart team ran into a bit of snag when we tried the unit on our own netbook during the event (it is still a beta test, after all) and we weren’t able to make it run properly there. As we mentioned earlier, our office (where we’re writing this) isn’t covered by LTE, so we’ll be using the dongle for HSPA+ for now. We’ll be reporting our speeds and our experience with the device as the weeks go by, so stand by for updates. For now, we’ll leave you with a lovely screenshot of another notebook that was running a far faster LTE dongle.