O2 has announced that it has begun trialling a 4G network in London which will give users “a unique glimpse into the future of superfast mobile broadband.”
The trial will run until next summer and it will be the UK’s largest trial 4G network in the UK. Earlier this month a smaller 4G trial began in Cornwall investigating the possibility of using a 4G network as an alternative to fixed-line broadband.
The network will consist of 25 masts and will stretch from Hyde Park to The O2 in Greenwich and has been designed to cover key areas of the capital, including Canary Wharf, Soho, Westminster, South Bank and Kings Cross. It is an extension of the current trial O2 is carrying out in Slough.
This large-scale 4G trial will use Long Term Evolution (LTE) technology and once completed, the masts will make up part of the UK’s first commercial 4G network. More than 1,000 people are expected to be be invited to take part in the trial, including staff at John Lewis stores, O2 customers and some small businesses.
LTE promises ten times the download speeds of the current 3G network with O2 promising speeds of up to 50Mbps during the trial, though it says the network could handle up to three times that speed. When the network becomes available generally however, real-life download speeds will be more in the region of 10-15Mbps.
During the trial, those involved will be given dongles to use with their laptops to test the system, but no phones will be used in the trial as no 4G-capable handsets are available in the UK yet.
“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," said Ronan Dunne, chief executive of Telefonica UK which runs O2. “The work we are doing now will lay the foundations for our commercial 4G network when it launches in the UK."
The UK lags behind many European countries as well as the US, Japan and South Korea in terms of 4G networks with a commerically available network not liklely to be available until 2013 at the earliest. Ofcom is due to auction off the alotted specturm towards the end of next year, having been delayed a number of times due to networks arguing over how it should be auctioned off.