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Cornwall to get LTE mobile broadband trial via 800MHz

Clear Mobitel is planning to bring high-speed LTE broadband services in the 800MHz spectrum to mobile and static devices in a trial of the technology in remote parts of Cornwall
Written by Ben Woods, Contributor on

Clear Mobitel has announced plans to begin a trial of 4G mobile broadband services over 800MHz in parts of Cornwall that have poor broadband connectivity.

The LTE (long-term evolution of 3G) scheme announced on Wednesday will make use of the 800MHz band previously occupied by analogue transmissions that have since been freed up since the digital switchover. The Caradon Hill area of east Cornwall — where the technology will be tested — completed the switchover in April 2009.

The trial, which is expected to begin in September, will be one of the first for LTE broadband for homes to make use of the 800MHz frequency in the UK. East Cornwall will see high-speed internet access to broadband in 'notspots' and customers with particularly poor broadband services, according to Clear Mobitel.

"This trial marks an important step forward in assessing how LTE can make a valuable contribution in delivering solutions to meet the rural high-speed broadband challenge. Cornwall is an excellent area to conduct such a trial, given it is deeply rural in nature and also the fact that the 800MHz band is largely dormant due to the completion of the switch from analogue to digital terrestrial TV transmission," said Andrew Elston, regulatory affairs director of Clear Mobitel, in yesterday's announcement.

Speaking to ZDNet UK, Elston highlighted that the company was "aiming to gather large amounts of wide-ranging data" on both the LTE technology and the devices deployed in order to work out how to "offer the services in a cost-effective manner to rural communities".

Plans to begin auctioning the 800Mhz and 2.6GHz frequencies in the UK in 2008 were delayed by legal challenges from operators. Earlier in July, a spokesperson for the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS) told ZDNet UK that the actual auction will probably take place "around a year from now". The digital dividend spectrum will be freed up nationwide when the digital switchover is completed in 2012.

Clear Mobitel said it had created a subsidiary called Clear Technologies to design its end-user devices, such as static and mobile LTE-capable products.

"Due to the unavailability of CPE [consumer premises equipment] devices, we had made a strategic decision early this year to invest in a subsidiary company based out of the Silicon Valley in California to design our own CPE devices for the purpose of the trial," Harpal Mann, chief executive of Clear Mobitel, confirmed to ZDNet UK.

The company is working towards trialling both dongle-based and mobile phone products that work with the 800Mhz spectrum; the latter revolve around a handset running the Google Android operating system, Elston explained.

In 2009, Clear Mobitel was awarded a licence to operate a LTE network on the 2.6GHz spectrum in Jersey by the Jersey Competition and Regulatory Authority (JCRA).

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