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BT, Everything Everywhere kick off Cornwall LTE trial

The companies are keen to show how LTE technology used over 800MHz spectrum can fill in rural broadband notspots, an issue that attracts millions in government subsidies
Written by David Meyer, Contributor

Everything Everywhere and BT have begun a live trial of LTE in Cornwall, to see how the '4G' technology copes with real-world fixed and mobile usage.

Everything Everywhere

Everything Everywhere and BT have begun a trial of LTE in Cornwall. Photo credit: Karen Friar

The companies announced the start of the super-fast mobile broadband trial on Friday, having trailed it in May. As with other LTE trials that have taken place in Cornwall and Wales, the new test is partly aimed at showing how 4G wireless technology can be used to fill in rural broadband notspots — gaps that the government is trying to fill with £530m in subsidies.

"BT is committed to working with the government and using technology innovation to find ways of addressing the remaining challenges within the UK where there are still broadband notspots," BT Wholesale chief executive Nigel Stagg said in a statement. "The final 10 percent of the country is exceedingly difficult to reach with the available standard fixed-line solutions."

The trial is taking place in St Newlyn East and the surrounding area of South Newquay, with around 200 participants. According to Everything Everywhere and BT, residents of the 25 sq km area have little to no broadband access.

Prior to this real-world test, which uses 10MHz of 800MHz spectrum, the companies carried out an eight-week laboratory trial. However, the lab test was unable to show how issues such as distance to the mast, building density and geographical terrain affect data speeds.

Two chunks of UK spectrum, around 800MHz and 2.6GHz, will go up for auction at the end of 2012, after a further delay was announced by Ofcom on Friday. Although the 2.6GHz spectrum allows for greater speeds — LTE can theoretically peak at a download speed of 300Mbps — mobile broadband services using the 800MHz spectrum can travel further. As this means fewer base stations need to be installed, it is better suited to rural rollouts.

While the UK continues to test LTE, much of the rest of the world is already deploying it. The first commercial LTE services appeared in Scandinavia in late 2009, and at least 14 countries are now in the process of upgrading from 3G to 4G.

A study last week claimed that the UK's four-year delay in holding the 4G spectrum auctions is costing the country's businesses at least £732m a year in lost productivity, even without taking into account the competitive disadvantage compared with other countries.

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