UK moving towards 4G slowly

British telecommunications company O2 launched the first ever 4G network in London last week. The UK capital joins Finland, Norway, Sweden and Germany in offering the fast speed network, which allows customers to download information over their mobiles at the same speed as a fibre-optic landline connection. The catch, however, is that it will only be available in 25 locations around the city to 1,000 Londoners who have agreed to participate in a nine-month trial – the largest Long Term Evolution (LTE) trial ever to be held in the UK.


Initially the trial will not involve phones, as no compatible handset exists yet. Instead Samsung dongles will be handed out which can be plugged into tablets and laptops. The test joins a similar project initiated last month by Everything Everywhere and BT, where 200 people in the village of St Newlyn, Cornwall were given 4G internet access for three months.


Despite the trial, the UK is still viewed as somewhat of a 4G laggard compared with the US, Germany and Scandinavia, which have been deploying 4G commercially for the last few years. It will not be available in the UK until the analogue television signals are switched off at the end of 2012. Even then the UK is unlikely to have its own service until 2017, something that could cost businesses up to £730 million a year.


The new technology is capable of speeds of up to 150 megabits per second, although trial users are more likely to experience speeds of between 25Mbps and 50Mbps. When it is introduced nationwide it is expected to drop to between 10Mbps and 15Mbps, which is still faster than a fixed line broadband connection.


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