The 4G trial by Everything Everywhere has begun in Cornwall to close rural broadband not-spots
Mobile operator Everything Everywhere and BT has today kick -started its trial of Long Term Evolution (LTE) 4G technology in the South West, as a possible solution for the so called broadband ‘not spots’ in rural areas.
The trial between the two companies was initially revealed back in May this year. It comes on the back on BT’s £132 million scheme announced last September to roll out superfast broadband to 90 percent of homes in Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly.
Now it seems that the UK’s first customer trial of 4G mobile broadband has now gone live, with 200 people now testing what will also be the UK’s first mobile and fixed line broadband network collaboration.
The 200 customers mostly live in St. Newlyn East and the surrounding area of South Newquay, which has low or no broadband service available.
The customer trial apparently followed a “successful eight week laboratory trial which rigorously tested the network deployment in simulated conditions.” It seems the labs tests were necessary to prove it would be possible to share, manage and optimise valuable radio resources between two service providers.
The field trial meanwhile will gauge the experience of the customers to help both Everything Everywhere and BT Wholesale test and better understand realistic 4G LTE speeds, as well as general mobile broadband data service conditions in rural areas.
This real-life trail is apparently important because just like fixed-line broadband, a number of outside factors influence possible data speeds. This includes the number of people using the network (i.e. contention ratios), as well as physical factors such as the distance to a mast, building density and geographical terrain.
The trial itself is made of up 100 mobile and 100 fixed-wireless broadband triallists living in a 25 square kilometre area in Cornwall. Essentially the 100 mobile triallists will be using dongles and laptops, whereas the 100 fixed-wireless broadband triallists will connect to a 4G basestation, that then hands off the signal to BT’s fixed-line backhaul network.
They will test the application of 4G LTE as a shared fixed and mobile platform, using 10MHz of test 800MHz spectrum.
More than 400 residents registered for the trial, and the two companies apparently conducted a number of workshops and home visits to familiarise all participants with the technology.
The trial is set to run until early next year.
“Soon, more people will be accessing the internet on their mobile devices than on their PCs, and that means we need the right kind of networks in place to deliver the right kind of experience for our customers,” said Everything Everywhere CEO, Olaf Swantee.
“The final ten percent of the country is exceedingly difficult to reach with the available standard fixed line solutions,” explained BT Wholesale CEO Nigel Stagg. “Our proof of concept trial in Cornwall will test the capabilities and services that a shared fixed and mobile data network can support and is just one of the options, along with fibre and other mobile and wireless technologies that we are looking at to offer a possible solution to the rural broadband challenge.”
Earlier this week, a report from the policy advisory group Open Digital, warned that British businesses will lose up to £732 million a year because of the UK government’s delay in rolling out 4G mobile broadband.
There is little doubt that the UK is lagging badly in the 4G deployment stakes, after the world’s first LTE network deployments took place in Oslo and Stockolm four years ago.
But the problems of reaching rural areas was starkly illustrated in August, when the BBC’s crowdsourced survey revealed that a 3G mobile phone signal is generally unavailable 25 percent of the time in Britain.
The UK is only set to hold its 4G spectrum auctions next year, and already operators are complaining about the auction conditions. Last month the culture secretary Jeremy Hunt, pleaded with operators to avoid delaying the auction process any further.
Meanwhile the Conservatives recently pledged £150 million to improve mobile coverage in the UK’s so called mobile ‘not-spots.’