4G services go live in London

UK Broadband has switched on 4G services in Southwark, aiming to become the first company to sell the super-fast connectivity to homes and businesses when it opens its doors in May

UK Broadband has switched on 4G services in Southwark in London, aiming to become the first company to start selling the super-fast connectivity in the country.


UK Broadband has switched on 4G services in Southwark.

The services, which went live on Wednesday, could easily deliver download speeds of up to 120Mbps, but on a laden network will be more likely to consistently deliver 40Mbps, the company told ZDNet UK. The network is based on Time Division Long Term Evolution (TD-LTE) technology, which was developed by China Mobile.

"This is the first TD-LTE 3.5GHz deployment in the world and the first commercial 4G deployment in the UK," said UK Broadband, which built the network using Huawei equipment.

This is the first TD-LTE 3.5GHz deployment in the world and the first commercial 4G deployment in the UK.

– UK Broadband

Homes and businesses in the South Bank and Borough parts of Southwark will be able to get the company's 4G services from May. UK Broadband is offering the services wholesale to operators, who will handle the retail side. However, it expects to sell directly to large customers, such as government agencies.

Although UK Broadband is handling only the wholesale side, chief executive Nicholas James told ZDNet UK the retail services will be "competitively priced" and will cost roughly the same as fixed-line broadband.

Earlier in February, Everything Everywhere said it could offer 4G services to parts of the UK before the end of 2012, if it is granted regulatory approval to reuse its 2G 1800MHz spectrum by Ofcom. In general, the rollout of 4G in the UK has been held back by repeated delays to Ofcom's auction of 800MHz and 2.6GHz spectrum for these services.

UK Broadband's parent PCCW, which describes itself as the largest holder of 4G spectrum in the country, owns a 3.5GHz band originally meant for WiMax use, but now used for its TD-LTE network.

TTD-LTE is proving popular among network operators because it only needs a single channel per connection, where the base station-to-handset and handset-to-base station transmissions share one frequency through different time slots. Other types of LTE need pairs of frequencies, one each per transmission.

UK Broadband and Huawei are jointly providing the end-user devices for the services. Households and businesses will get an in-building LTE box similar to a normal modem router that stays in a fixed place.

In September, the company plans to start offering MiFi-like units for using the 4G services on the move — essentially, it will be similar to a portable Wi-Fi hotspot. According to James, Huawei will come out with a mobile phone with 4G TD-LTE capabilities in the UK next year, but he would not say when exactly it will arrive.

UK Broadband said it will deploy the services to potential partners where the demand for LTE coverage is greatest, focusing initially on heavily populated urban areas.

According to James, the company's fixed-line LTE broadband services are a good alternative for people who do not want to sign up for a fixed 18-month contract, such as students, because it will provide them with super-fast data without a lock-in period.

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