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Long Term Evolution (LTE) has been introduced by 3GPP (3rd Generation Partnership Project) and is poised to dominate the 4th generation (4G) of mobile telecommunication networks. In this article, we present an in-depth analysis of the LTE physical layer's characteristics and its performance. Our work is unique in providing a detailed performance study based on Release 8 of the 3GPP standard. Several works have discussed the LTE performance; however, most have been restricted to limited scenarios. Our work shows a more comprehensive investigation of the maximum data throughput under different conditions and scenarios. Our performance study includes TDD and FDD operational modes for uplink and downlink transmissions in different antenna diversity schemes, data modulation, and code rates. Our results show that LTE (3GPP-Release 8) supports downlink throughputs of up to 300Mbps and for the uplink a throughput of up to 75 Mbps.