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Orange, T-Mobile merger trials 4G network in rural Britain

Parts of Britain could soon benefit from 4G technology, under a new trial to combat the poor coverage in the rural countryside.
Written by Zack Whittaker, Contributor

Britain is set to field trial the next-generation mobile broadband in the rural south-west countryside, which could rival that of existing landline broadband connections.

Mobile networks Everything Everwhere, formed after the combined forces of Orange and T-Mobile UK merged last year -- serving nearly half of Britain's population -- is working with British Telecom to bring the high-speed 4G LTE (Long Term Evolution) network to Cornwall.

Aiming to serve at least 200 people in the rural suburbs of the region, the trial will give the two telecommunications giants' insights into the performance and speeds available for consumers over wide areas.

The trial, set to begin in early 2012, had over 400 people apply to be part of the network test. Half qualified for the trial, and will be split further into 100 mobile customers and 100 fixed broadband customers, running until the end of the year.

In a bid to expand mobile network coverage to 'notspots' around the country, it will allow areas with no signal coverage to benefit from access high-speed networks sooner than the rest of the wider population.

Using 10Mhz of the test 800Mhz spectrum, currently used for terrestrial television broadcasts, the new broadband spectrum could offer speeds of up to 100Mbps, offering greater capacity and range for existing 3G networks in the area.

4G technology is new to the British market; something the United States has excelled upon in the past few years. The "rural broadband challenge" is part of the industry response in reaching out to customers with poor mobile and broadband coverage, particularly in areas like Cornwall, Wales and in the north of England.

Microsoft has also seen 4G testing success in Cambridge, which began in June, in conjunction with media giants Sky and the BBC, Samsung and others.

The trail comes ahead of an auction of the 800Mhz and 2.6Ghz spectrum by telecommunications regulator Ofcom, which could see 'white space' auctioned off to enable faster network speeds across a country which still struggles with patchy connectivity.

But the spectrum auction has not gone by without controversy. Rival mobile operator O2 claimed the auction was illegal under European law, and threatened the regulator with legal action. Both O2 and Vodafone claim that the auction would give competitors an advantage over the parts of the spectrum they already own, believing rivals should start without a push in the right direction.

4G LTE coverage is expected to go live across Britain from 2014.

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