O2 has commenced testing of their 4G LTE network in Central London for a course of 9 months, providing speeds to hundreds of test subjects of 50mbps realistically (150mbps theoretically).
Both consumers and business users alike will be involved in the testing of O2's recently installed Long Term Evolution (LTE) network across parts of the City, providing download capabilities many times faster than those over 3G.
As an extension of previous trials the network ran in Slough, which began in 2009, participants are to be given broadband dongles for their computers, which will gain them access to the 2.6GHz spectrum (a.k.a. 4G data speeds). Rather interestingly, when the network is put into full usage (Ofcom is auctioning spectrum in late 2012), 800MHz bands will be included in the service support...sound familiar? For those uninitiated, this is the spectrum that will be freed-up by the UK switchover to digital TV from analogue.
Speaking in future generalities and predictions, O2 claims that speeds once the network is fully up and running are more likely to average around the 10-15Mbps mark, up to ten times more than Ofcom's calculated 3G average of 1.5Mbps.
"Today's launch of the UK's first 4G London trial network demonstrates our commitment to delivering 4G to our customers at the earliest opportunity," said Ronan Dunne, chief exec of Telefonica UK which runs O2.
"The work we are doing now will lay the foundations for our commercial 4G network when it launches in the UK."
However, to place a contradictory statement here, this doesn't count as the 4G that O2 describes the service as being. Since it doesn't reach what International Telecommunications Union (ITU) define as the 4G standard (it needs to reach theoretical speeds of one gigabit per second), LTE networks are defined as 3.9G. Doesn't quite have the same ring to it though!
Orange and BT are also carring out 4G tests; but in Cornwall with 200 people, whereas O2's experiment involves 1000. This is all coming as Ofcom plans to hold an auction for LTE radio spectrum in late 2012. Of course, as it has done with U.S. carriers, the auctioning process has caused fallouts between the UK operators and delayed the process. It's already got O2 and Vodafone threatening legal action against Ofcom if they allow Three to buy part of the LTE spectrum at a minimum price. This we're in disagreement with, regardless of what capitalistic wrongbeings occurs with that choice, it's still a decision that will push innovation.
The consumer will win, which is one of the primary aims of business after all.
I am the Founder and Editor-in-chief of New Rising Media. You can follow me on Twitter @MrJasonEngland.