Telefonica-owned mobile network O2 is switching on the UK's first commercial 4G mobile network in London today, with users able to experience speeds of up to 100Mbps.
Twenty five 4G sites will blanket-cover London, from Hyde Park to Greenwich, to the financial capital of Canary Wharf, as well as the political heart of Westminster, Kings Cross and the South Bank areas of the city.
While only connecting around 1,000 people at first, including citizens and business owners, it is hoped that this trial will be a foot in the door to faster and more reliable speeds in the British capital.
(Image source: O2)
O2 has over 22 million users, making it the UK's second largest mobile network behind Everything Everywhere, the company behind the joint venture merging Orange and T-Mobile.
Moving on from from an initial trial in Slough, west of the capital, London's trial will run until mid-2012. It will enable the mobile network to gauge exactly how users' access 4G technology, whether it is beneficial, but also fill a major gap between 'not-spots' in the capital.
Some parts of England have also undergone 4G trials, such as in the dark-depths of Cornwall, where mobile reception is in some cases non-existent. The trial will begin early next year.
While 4G technology has already been in force for the last few years in the United States, the UK has fallen behind not only against its American cousins, but around Europe and the rest of the world.
But the upcoming spectrum auction is causing headaches for the four major mobile networks, including Vodafone, and O2 -- the network behind the trial.
The UK's communications regulator Ofcom is hoping to hold the 4G spectrum auction towards the end of 2012. But because the spectrum will not be available to use until the year after, a steady roll-out of 4G services will be delayed until an expected mid-2013.
Earlier this month, a UK parliamentary committee told UK mobile networks to "stop fighting" over the spectrum auction, which has caused the delay of the sale.
O2 and Vodafone continue to threaten legal action should Ofcom allow fourth-place network Three to purchase some of the spectrum for its minimum price, with other networks claiming the move amounts to "state aid", and would give the network an unfair advantage over the larger networks.
4G LTE network access is expected to go live across the UK from 2014.
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