A lucky thousand trialists on O2’s 4G mobile broadband trial in London have been enjoying speeds of 20-50Mbps, with bursts of up to 150Mbps.
The nine-month trial uses frequencies around 2.6GHz with 25 masts covering some 15 square miles of London including the West End, King’s Cross and Docklands.
The trials have also helped O2 to integrate 4G into its national backbone infrastructure, and will now focus on transferring users smoothly between 2G, 3G and 4G mobile coverage.
Ronan Dunne, CEO of O2 UK, said: ““The forthcoming spectrum auction is a watershed moment for the UK mobile industry, releasing the airwaves that will power a whole range of exciting next-generation mobile services.
“The new spectrum will increase capacity, quality and speed – we estimate that mobile broadband capacity will increase by 20 to 40 times from today’s levels – and will allow us to deliver true connectivity through a suite of innovative digital services, that work seamlessly and at speed for the benefit of consumers, business and UK.”
Participants in the 4G (also known as LTE) trial have been using Samsung USB modems and MiFi-style personal WiFi routers because there are no 4G handsets ready.
O2 admits that that commcercial 4G service is likely to provide 10-15Mbps in action when there are millions of users connected.
Everything Everywhere (owner of T-Mobile and Orange) is also conducting a 4G trial in Cornwall aimed at rural users.
The 2.6GHz band has left fallow while the mobile phone companies bicker over how to fix the auction of empty frequencies to their advantage in advance.
It will now be added to the auction of frequencies around 800MHz, which have been cleared by the Digital Switchover and close-down of analogue TV.
The mega-auction is supposed to happen later this year, organised by communications regulator Ofcom.
This may be delayed by Three and Vodafone, who have threatened to take Ofcom to court of the auction is not designed in their best interests.
The higher frequencies at 2.6MHz can deliver high speeds, but the 800MHz frequencies are valuable because they have long range suitable for rural broadband, and they penetrate buildings much better than today’s 2G and 3G signals.