British mobile network operator O2 UK has announced the launch of what it claims are the first trials of Long Term Evolution (LTE) technology in the capital, London. The cellco has revealed that during the nine-month pilot scheme it will provide ‘hundreds of consumers, businesses and venue owners with the latest 4G technology and give exclusive access to the first and largest urban 4G network in the UK’.
For the trial O2 UK has confirmed it will use the 2.6GHz band under a Test and Development licence granted to it by UK telecoms regulator Ofcom; the cellco noted that the 2.6GHz band supports the maximum 20MHz RF bandwidth for LTE, which allows theoretical downlink speeds of up to 150Mbps. As part of the trial, more than 25 LTE-enabled base stations will be switched on this month, covering a combined area of 40 square kilometres, with the 4G network stretching from Hyde Park to The O2 in Greenwich, with O2 UK noting that the coverage area has been ‘carefully designed’ to reach key areas of the capital, including Canary Wharf, Soho, Westminster, South Bank and Kings Cross. The equipment for the Radio and Core network elements are being supplied by Finnish vendor Nokia Siemens Networks (NSN), while backhaul for the trial network has been provided using Microwave Radio Equipment from Cambridge Broadband Networks Limited, NEC and NSN. Customers selected to take part in the trial meanwhile will be provided with Samsung B3730 mobile broadband dongles, capable of supporting speeds of up to 100Mbps, as well as 4G personal wireless hotspots and handsets from a number of other vendors.
As part of the tests O2 has said it plans to collect real-time network performance data, combined with anecdotal feedback from customers, with the results to be used to influence and shape its plans for any commercial implementation of LTE.
Commenting on the development, Ronan Dunne, Telefonica UK (O2) CEO, noted: ‘Today’s launch of the UK’s first 4G London trial network demonstrates our commitment to delivering 4G to our customers at the earliest opportunity. The work we are doing now will lay the foundations for our commercial 4G network when it launches in the UK.’