O2 is today switching on the first long term evolution (LTE) network in the capital, offering a unique glimpse into the future of superfast mobile broadband.
The trial, which will run for the next nine months, will see O2 equip 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.
On the new network, the time to download a 500MB file could be as fast as under one minute, compared to over five minutes on 3G.
Over 25 4G sites will go live across London this month, covering a combined area of 40 square kilometres, between now and summer 2012. The network will stretch from Hyde Park to The O2 in Greenwich, and has been carefully designed to cover key areas of the capital, including Canary Wharf, Soho, Westminster, South Bank and Kings Cross.
The O2 4G trial will use the 2.6GHz spectrum band under a Test and Development licence granted to O2 by Ofcom, and is an extension of O2’s earlier 4G trials in Slough that have been running since 2009. The 2.6GHz band supports the maximum 20MHz RF bandwidth for LTE, which allows 4G speeds of up to 150Mbps.
The network will enable O2 to provide a mobile internet experience comparable to the fastest landline fibre home broadband connections, unlocking services including high speed corporate LAN access, high definition film and music streaming, mobile online gaming and high speed access to social networks.
Ronan Dunne, CEO at Telefónica UK (O2), said: “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.”
O2 will provide trialists with Samsung B3730 mobile broadband dongles, supporting speeds of up to 100Mbps, and well as 4G personal wireless hotspots and handsets from a number of other vendors. Over 1000 individuals are expected to take part.
Miriam Lahage, vice president of Global Fashion at eBay, commented: “It is very encouraging to see O2 commit to trialling 4G high speed mobile internet in London. As we set out in our Mobile Manifesto, accelerating 4G rollout is critical to the success of the UK mobile economy as over 45% of consumers are currently dissatisfied with the speed at which they can complete everyday functions like browsing and shopping on their smartphones.”
However, she added: “This O2 initiative is an important step to improving UK mobile infrastructure, and will give consumers in London a taste of what is to come after the 4G rollout. Ofcom should proceed with the auction of the 4G spectrum as quickly as possible so consumers and the industry can benefit from the next generation of mobile broadband.”
eBay recently announced a revised global m-commerce forecast, predicting that it will generate almost $5 billion in sales volume in 2011 ($1 billion more than the $4 billion prediction made earlier this year). The development of the Mobile Manifesto also follows research conducted for eBay by retail experts Verdict that shows mobile shopping could deliver a £4.5 billion boost to Britain’s economy by 2016, and a further 13 billion by 2021.
Among those involved in the trial are a number of exclusive partners, including: John Lewis – one of O2’s largest corporate customers to be signed to the trial to pilot the benefits of 4G internally and explore the impact it will have on its operations; The IET – the Institution of Engineering and Technology has joined O2’s efforts to demonstrate 4G capability amongst its membership; The O2 – with its own dedicated 4G internal and external sites providing coverage to The O2 Arena and surrounding area, The O2 will play host to 4G live music video and film streaming demonstrations at the O2 Lounge and O2 Store, for both O2 customers and visitors to enjoy.
Real time network performance data, combined with anecdotal feedback from customers, will be collected throughout the trial. The results will be used to influence and shape O2’s plans for the commercial implementation of its forthcoming 4G network, following Ofcom’s 4G spectrum auction, which is expected to take place in 2012.
“O2 has been at the heart of the mobile data explosion over the last three years and our priority has always been to build ahead of the curve,” continued Dunne. “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. 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.
“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. We are actively engaged in the auction and are supportive of a fair process that meets the Government’s and Ofcom’s planned timeline.”
Telefónica UK’s 4G trial network has been deployed using equipment supplied by Nokia Siemens Networks for both the Radio and Core network elements. Backhaul for the 4G trial network has been provided using Microwave Radio Equipment from Cambridge Broadband Networks Limited, NEC and Nokia Siemens Networks.
The trial in London is now live and will run until June 2012.