Everything Everywhere Uses Contentious Spectrum In Cumbria 4G Trial

Everything Everywhere is running a 4G trial in a tiny village in Cumbria, using the 1800MHz spectrum it hopes to use for a controversial wide-scale 4G rollout later this year.

The first live 4G trial in the North of England is being held by the operator in Threlkeld, a Cumbrian village of just 454 people. Secretary of state for education Michael Gove was on hand in the north, seeing how 4G was helping Queen Elizabeth Grammar School pupils do foreign language homework online.

Give it a Gove

“Cumbria has unique needs due to its sparse population and long distances, which 4G LTE will help overcome,” Gove said. “Cumbria’s schools and educational opportunities will be revolutionised by this technology. Cumbria’s record number of small businesses will be transformed by this next generation technology. 4G will bring jobs to rural areas and all the benefits of superfast broadband in education and health to its remote communities.”

An Everything Everywhere spokesperson said there was no point in picking similar spots to competitors when initiating 4G trials, and the company was very interested in whether 4G could be a replacement for fixed line services in rural areas. O2 has already carried out a trial in London.

The news came just a matter of days after Everything Everywhere launched its 4G Britain project, which it claimed was to promote the speedy rollout of LTE connections.

Yet rivals claimed it was a lobbying exercise, designed to help Everything Everywhere get the green light from Ofcom to use its 1800MHz spectrum for a major rollout starting towards the end of the year. Ofcom is currently holding a consultation that will determine whether to allow Everything Everywhere to go ahead. The regulator had initially given the operator the thumbs up, but rival operators fumed at the decision.

The spokesperson told TechWeekEurope the company was surprised by the “almighty drama” surrounding the use of 1800MHz for 4G, saying Everything Everywhere was “not going to apologise for the spectrum we’ve got”.

“We were given it when we all applied for our licenses. Our wonderful friends in blue and red were given 900MHz and we were given 1800MHz.

“Now 900MHz, for years, has been the one that everyone wants. In fact, it still is. Low frequency spectrum is the stuff that goes a long way and therefore you don’t need as many base stations and you can run your network a lot more cheaply.”

When O2 and Vodafone chose to use their 900MHz licenses for 3G use last year, they may have missed a trick. Everything Everywhere had the option of using its 1800MHz for 3G, but instead decided to see if it could run 4G over it, which it later discovered it could, the spokesperson told TechWeekEurope.

The spokesman suggested O2 and Vodafone could still apply for 4G licenses for their 900MHz spectrum. “You’d expect companies of the might of Telefonica and Vodafone to be able to influence the ecosystem somewhat, it’s just they’ve chosen not to,” he added.

If Everything Everywhere is given the go-ahead to rollout 4G towards the end of the year, it will do so in just one or two places. Then a wider rollout will begin, according to the spokesman, but the company expects “all hell to break loose” if Ofcom lets the company bring 4G out earlier than its major rivals.

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Thomas Brewster

Tom Brewster is TechWeek Europe's Security Correspondent. He has also been named BT Information Security Journalist of the Year in 2012 and 2013.

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