O2 to Test 800MHz LTE in UK

AMSTERDAM -- LTE World Summit -- Telefónica SA (NYSE: TEF)'s Telefónica UK Ltd. has acquired a trial license from UK regulator Ofcom to test Long Term Evolution (LTE) in the 800MHz frequency band.

The operator is already testing LTE in the 2.6GHz band with radio access and core equipment from Huawei Technologies Co. Ltd. as part of parent Telefónica's six-country LTE trial initiative. (See Telefónica Kicks Off LTE Trials, O2 UK Trials LTE, NEC Joins Telefónica LTE Trial, and Telefónica, NSN Test LTE in Slovakia.)

And it's using radio access equipment from the Chinese vendor for the 800MHz LTE trial, and wants to start the tests in the third quarter of 2010. The trial license allows O2 to conduct the new LTE tests in Carlisle, a city in the northwest of England.

O2 believes it will be the first operator in the UK to test LTE in the so-called "digital dividend" spectrum, which refers to the frequency band that will be freed up for mobile operators when broadcasters switch to digital TV.

One of the goals of the 800MHz LTE trial will be to assess the potential for interference between the mobile LTE services and broadcasters' services, according to Robert Joyce, radio evolution manager at O2.

"The problem with the 800MHz band is the concern over interference issues between LTE and [broadcasters'] services," says Joyce, adding that the trial will help "to better understand the interference issues, if any."

In Germany, Vodafone Germany has conducted 800MHz LTE trials in partnership with broadcasters to test the same issue. (See V'fone Germany to Test LTE for Rural Broadband.)

In the UK, O2 started testing LTE in the 2.6GHz band in the lab in September last year and has just begun friendly user trials using LTE dongles from Samsung. For the trial, O2 deployed six LTE base stations in Slough, while the systems architecture evolution (SAE) core equipment is located in nearby Basingstoke. Traffic from the LTE base stations is backhauled to the core network via Ethernet microwave links or fiber connections.

For the new LTE trial in Carlisle, O2 will need to backhaul the LTE traffic over a distance of about 400 kilometers to the core network in Basingstoke.

The data from both of O2's UK LTE trials will feed into Telefonica's global LTE trial project, which involves six vendors in six countries. Telefonica is testing LTE equipment from NEC Corp. (Tokyo: 6701) in Argentina; Alcatel-Lucent (NYSE: ALU) in Brazil; Nokia Networks in the Czech Republic; Ericsson AB (Nasdaq: ERIC) and ZTE Corp. (Shenzhen: 000063; Hong Kong: 0763) in Spain; and Huawei in the UK.

— Michelle Donegan, European Editor, Light Reading Mobile

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