Hands on with London's first 4G service

Hands on with London's first 4G service

Summary: UK Broadband plans to start selling its 4G service to homes and businesses in Southwark next week. ZDNet UK put the TD-LTE network through its paces to find out whether it can deliver the typical 40Mbps speeds it promises

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  • UK Broadband 4G hands-on - laptops

    In the picture above, the laptop on the left is connected to UK Broadband's 4G service, while the one on the right is using a Three Mi-Fi dongle with 3G.

    Using the service in a stationary position, ZDNet UK saw speed-test results of around 48Mbps. By comparison, the 3G-connected laptop returned results of between 8Mbps and 10Mbps.

    The subscription price for the 3.5GHz TD-LTE service will be comparable to the typical cost of a fixed-line broadband service, at around £20 to £25, a spokeswoman for UK Broadband said. It will be provided completely uncapped at launch, meaning there will be no limit on the amount that people can download, she added.

    Image credit: Ben Woods

  • UK Broadband 4G hands-on - router

    For now, the 4G services are being delivered via an in-building LTE box that looks like any home broadband router. However, Mi-Fi units that can be carried and used on the move are scheduled to arrive in September.

    The router pictured is made by Huawei and has been limited to provide a maximum of around 66Mbps downstream. It can handle up to 36 devices at once, connected via Wi-Fi, according to Philip Marnick, chief technical officer at UK Broadband.

    Marnick said the upstream rate — in terms of "a pure mobile play" — is consistent at around 3Mbps. However, he noted that the service could be configured differently to help provide super-fast broadband services in rural areas, to fulfil the government's Next Generation Broadband access requirements of a minimum of 5Mbps uploads.

    Image credit: Ben Woods

  • UK Broadband 4G hands-on - mobile

    ZDNet UK also tried out the service in a moving vehicle around Southwark, where the speed-test results returned were in the 28Mbps-38Mbps range. As a comparison, the same test using a Vodafone Mi-Fi unit saw speeds of around 4Mbps.

    With Marnick (shown above), we carried out Skype calls simultaneously across UK Broadband's service and on the Vodafone network, and found the 4G call was considerably less blocky and free from lag or stuttering. In addition, we managed to stream HD video from the BBC iPlayer service while on the move.

    Mobile handsets compatible with the 3.5GHz band are expected to go on sale next year. Huawei will make mobile phones compatible with the TD-LTE network, UK Broadband confirmed. Other manufacturers are also looking at providing similar hardware, but these have yet to be announced, it added.

    "We're expecting those mid-next year," Marnick said. "Huawei has already put pictures up, but there are certainly others as well."

    Image credit: Ben Woods


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Topics: Broadband, Networking

Ben Woods

About Ben Woods

With several years' experience covering everything in the world of telecoms and mobility, Ben's your man if it involves a smartphone, tablet, laptop, or any other piece of tech small enough to carry around with you.

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