LTE trial kicks off in London

O2, a UK arm of European telecoms giant Telefonica, has begun the first trial of 4G LTE in the English capital, delivering mobile broadband speeds of up to 150mbps to a sample group of around 100 users.

Over 25 4G sites will go live across London this month, covering a combined area of 40 square kilometres, between now and summer 2012, covering key areas of the capital, including Canary Wharf, Soho, Westminster, South Bank and Kings Cross.

In reality, as experienced with 3G, actual download speeds are unlikely to reach the headline figures, but with similar trials in Finland delivering speeds of up to 48mbps, with an average of around 36mbps, users will still enjoy data capabilities far in excess of the current 3G networks.  

The London trial will operate over the 2.6GHz spectrum, with users issued Samsung B3730 mobile broadband dongles for use with laptops and notebooks. A limited number of mobile handsets will be issues, though LTE phones are not generally available yet in the UK.

The lower and more durable 800MGHz frequency is still clogged with outgoing analogue television transmissions which are being phased out this year.

“Our work in London will give us a better understanding of the capabilities of 4G technology and will allow us to explore the superfast benefits it will bring to people and industry across the UK,” said Ronan Dunne, Chief Executive Officer of Telefónica UK. “This 4G trial is the next step on our journey to a smarter network - a network that offers a seamless, connected experience across multiple devices, locations and services.”

Some European countries, Sweden, Finland, and Germany, along with the US, Canada and South Korea, are already deploying LTE networks, leaving the UK lagging behind somewhat.

UK regulator Ofcom says that, despite earlier delays, it is on course to hold LTE auctions for the licenses to use the bandwidth channels at the end of next year. There have been suggestions, particularly from the UK government’s Culture, Media and Sport Select Committee, that disagreements between operators over the nature of the auction have slowed the process.

Vodafone and O2 have claimed that plans from Offcom to allow a smaller operator Three to purchase a part of the spectrum at a minimum price, constitute state aid, and they have threatened legal action.

Ronan Dunne, Chief Executive Officer of Telefónica UK, said today that O2 was actively engaged in the auction. O2 was “supportive of a fair process that meets the Government’s and Ofcom’s planned timeline”, he said.

“The forthcoming spectrum auction is a watershed moment for the UK mobile industry, which will see the release of the airwaves capable of powering a whole range of exciting next-generation mobile services.”

Find out more at the LTE conference as part of Telecoms Tech World on 4-5 June

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