The mobile operator said it will switch on 25 LTE cell sites this month to cover a 40-square-kilometer area of London for a trial that will last until June 2012. The test network will be open to about 1,000 people for the trial period.
O2 did not specify what downlink speeds users should expect to get from the LTE test, but claimed that the network will enable a "mobile Internet experience comparable to the fastest landline fiber home broadband connections," and that the time to download a 500MB file could be less than one minute, compared to more than 5 minutes on a 3G network.
For the trial, O2 will use radio access and core network equipment from Nokia Networks , plus microwave backhaul gear from Cambridge Broadband Networks Ltd. , NEC Corp. (Tokyo: 6701) and NSN. O2 will also use B3730 LTE dongles from Samsung Corp. The service will tap into 2.6GHz spectrum made available under a test and development license from U.K. regulator Ofcom . (See Backhaulin' LTE in London .)
While this is a technology first for London, it isn't O2's first U.K. LTE trial. The operator has previously tested the technology in Britain using equipment from Huawei Technologies Co. Ltd. (See O2 to Test 800MHz LTE in UK and Telefónica Kicks Off LTE Trials.)
Why this matters
While it's a positive step that a major U.K. operator is testing LTE in London, it's important to note that the technology is far from becoming a commercial reality in the country given the latest delays to the spectrum auction. Ofcom's auction is not expected to happen until late 2012.
Until such time as O2 can launch commercial LTE services, this trial will provide the operator with feedback not only about how the technology and network design works in London but also on how the participants use LTE services and applications.
Here's the background on the U.K.'s lurch toward LTE:
- Great Britain? I Don't Think So
- Euronews: Concern Over UK LTE Auction Plan
- Everything Everywhere Trials LTE in Cornwall
— Michelle Donegan, European Editor, Light Reading Mobile