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4G UK firsts for Swindon and Southwark: Broadband Rollout Roundup 27/04/2012

There’s a BT-free week in Broadband Rollout Roundup today, proving that British communities can get their broadband upgraded without the old GPO monopoly.

Welcome to the Recombu Digital weekly Broadband Rollout Roundup for April 27, 2012.

Oo-ar that’s faarst innit blood? Swindon and Southwark to pioneer 4G

London's South Bank by Confident JohnForget 02 and Three, little-known network provider UK Broadband will switch on Britain’s first superfast 4G LTE wireless broadband services.

With bandwidth of up to 100Mbps, the 4G services will first deliver broadband to fixed locations without fixed-line cable or phone connections, with mobile hardware expected to arrive in the late Summer 2012.

Both the Southwark and Swindon rollouts will use frequencies around 3.5GHz, which are better-suited to fixed locations with external antennas than mobile or indoor reception.


The South Bank and Borough areas of Southwark in south London will be first to go live with the service next week.

The network is a partnership between UK Broadband and Chinese electronics giant Huawei, which has supplied its Time Division Long Term Evolution base stations for the network.

Nicholas James, UKB’s CEO, stated: “We’re very excited to be switching on our first TD-LTE system in the UK using our 4G spectrum. We’re working with Huawei because we believe they have the expertise and experience we need to deliver the best solution.”

The network was switched on in February and has been undergoing testing since then, and will now be opened to wholesale customers.

It is expected to be used initially for broadband access to conventional WiFi hotspots and 2G/3G cells in the areas covered, making them cheaper to deploy than connecting to fixed broadband services or the mobile networks’ backbone.


UK Broadband has announced that Swindon will be the first local authority area to launch a 4G network across its borough.

UK Broadband is building the network in 63 locations with IT services giant Capita, using a combination of point-to-point microwave links to the 4G LTE base stations.

The network will go live this Summer, providing fixed locations with broadband access, while mobile WiFi base-stations and mobile data services are expected to arrive from September.

UK Broadband CEO Nicholas James said: “By deploying our unique combination of very high speed microwave and high capacity multi-channel LTE we can deliver truly wireless towns and cities. We can also deliver super-fast home broadband in line with the government’s broadband ambitions.

“We have commenced building the core transmission network and have committed to delivering £480k worth of savings in the next five years for the local authority as well as enabling the introduction of innovative services and solutions for the public sector and businesses.”

Hitesh Patel, Swindon Borough Council’s board director for transformation and strategic projects, explained that the network will enable borough council staff to stay connected to their office systems and data wherever they are.

“For example,” he said, “We envision that key front line staff, such as social workers, would be able to update case records remotely and prepare for their next visit without needing to return to a central location. Capabilities such as these will form the basis of more efficient service delivery, alongside the savings on communications budgets”

Gigabit broadband for Cumbria

Remote Pennine community Alston Moor will become one of Britain’s fastest broadband locations with the Cybermoor project.

An agreement with fibre technology provider Calix will bring a Gigabit passive optical network and indoor terminals to the town of Alston.

The new network will connect to existing links and cover the centre of Alston before spreading to smaller communities as funding becomes available.


Connected homes and businesses will eventually be able to connect to voice and TV services as well as the internet, with a choice of internet service providers.

Daniel Heery, Cybermoor Project Manager said, “We believe that this network will be transformative to the community of Alston Moor, whose residents will be among the first in the country to become a UK fibre optic community.

“A fibre network at the heart of the community will provide high-capacity connections to local residents and businesses and will help to attract people and businesses who want to live in a rural area and benefit from high-speed connections.

“With this powerful infrastructure, we will in fact be better served than many of the larger towns and cities of the country not only for today, but for some time to come.”

Cybermoor is a community cooperative aiming to bring high speed connections to a location beyond the reach of even first-generation ADSL.

The network already combines fixed wireless microwave links with fibre-optic connections to link up schools and power a WiFi network.

Funding has come from from the Rural Development Programme for England, and a community share offer programme will be aimed at attracting private investors from across the UK.

Andy Lockhart, senior vice president of international sales and marketing at Calix, said: “Few areas in the UK are more remote and rural than Cumbria, yet even fewer areas in the country will be as wired for the future as Alston Moor.

“We applaud the way that residents are taking their destiny into their own hands to meet the bandwidth needs of the community.

“The Cybermoor project is both visionary and innovative, and we are delighted to be able to bring our expertise and leadership in rural broadband implementations in other countries to help support this ambitious project.” 

What is TD-LTE?

Time Division Long Term Evolution is a 4G wireless technology developed by China Mobile, but it’s not the same as the LTE technology that will be used in Europe and the USA.

First, it uses 3.5GHz instead of a range of frequencies from 700MHz up to 2.5GHz.

Second, each device has a single channel for uploads and downloads, whereas the LTE standard uses two channels.

On the plus side, the same chipsets inside devices can access both networks, so they’ll be cheap to mass-produce and fit into devices with antennas suitable for the frequencies in use locally.

Images: Adrienne Serra/Flickr, confidentjohn/Flickr, Cybermoor/Google