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3 planning 4G trials in Slough next year

Super speedy mobile network test on the cards...

Super speedy mobile network test on the cards...

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3 is planning 4G trials next yearImage: 3 UK

The UK's smallest mobile operator, 3, is planning to trial LTE technology in the Thames Valley next year.

LTE (the Long term evolution of 3G) - sometimes also called 4G - is the next generation of mobile network technology, and supports faster speeds than the current generation of 3G cellular tech.

New spectrum is required before commerical LTE networks can go ahead, meaning UK operators are currently only able to trial the technology while they wait for regulator Ofcom to put the necessary spectrum up for auction.

Commercial LTE networks have launched already in Sweden and the US but won't launch in the UK until 2013 or 2014 - thanks to a series of delays postponing the spectrum auction process. In the UK auctions were originally scheduled for 2008 but are not now due to take place until late 2012.

3 said it plans to run a technical trial of LTE technology on a small number of sites in the Maidenhead and Slough area. The expected date for the first trial is March 2012.

"It will be a technical trial, so no customers at first. It will be on 2.6Ghz and will run for a couple of months," the operator said in a statement. This technical trial will be followed by a more consumer-facing trial later in the year, it added.

O2 is also planning an LTE trial next year, with 25 sites to be set up around London in summer 2012.

Back in October, an LTE trial run by mobile operator Everything Everywhere and telco BT kicked off in Cornwall.

Last month, ecommerce giant eBay urged the UK government to press ahead with the spectrum auctions to kickstart mobile commerce - and give the national economy a shot in the arm.

Ofcom's CEO Ed Richards recently accused UK operators of using "litigation or threats of litigation" to delay the spectrum auction process - a claim the operators have denied.