It's not too long until we can quit glaring enviously at our Yankee counterparts over their super-fast 4G speeds. While 4G won't be available to Joe Blow on the street until 2013 (or later), O2 is embarking on the first trials in London -- and Giz UK readers have an exclusive opportunity to help the network during a three-month-long period.
While 4G speeds have been tested in other parts of the country, most notably in Cornwall by Orange and O2 in Slough, this is the first time the capital has had 4G masts erected, with over 25 being strung up in an area of 40-square kilometres. The trial will run until June 2012, and will use the 2.6GHz spectrum band; something Ofcom has approved in light of next year's 4G spectrum auction.
Excitingly, Giz UK has teamed up with O2 as their exclusive media partner for the trials, and as promised, you -- yes, you! -- can help. We'll be giving away up to 30 dongles which support speeds of up to 100Mbps, with starred commenters being at the front of the queue.
Before you start planning your "working from home" days to "test" the speeds in the comfort of your own pants, hear this: the network will span most of central London, but doesn't cover the suburban bits most Londoners live in. Those living and working around Soho, Westminster, King's Cross or Canary Wharf will benefit from the super-fast speeds, but only if they have one of O2's mobile broadband dongles, which have been loaned to the network by Samsung.
More details on how our London-based readers will have a chance to test the network and give O2 invaluable feedback via a readers' panel will be coming shortly, but I can confirm it involves a.) a Giz UK launch party at the O2 Lounge, and b.) free drinks.
For more information on O2's 4G trials, check out their site here or the press release below; otherwise keep all eyes glued to this here site.
"14th November 2011
O2 brings superfast 4G to London
UK’s largest LTE trial network launches to explore the technology before national introduction
O2 today will switch on the first 4G (or LTE - Long Term Evolution) network in the capital, offering a unique glimpse into the future of superfast mobile broadband. The trial, which will run for the next nine months, will see O2 equip hundreds of consumers, businesses and venue owners with the latest 4G technology and give exclusive access to the first and largest urban 4G network in the UK.
Over 25 4G sites will go live across London this month, covering a combined area of 40 square kilometres, between now and summer 2012.The network will stretch from Hyde Park to The O2 in Greenwich and has been carefully designed to cover key areas of the capital, including Canary Wharf, Soho, Westminster, South Bank and Kings Cross.
The network will enable O2 to provide a mobile internet experience comparable to the fastest landline fibre home broadband connections, unlocking a wealth of services including high speed corporate LAN access, high-definition film and music streaming, mobile online gaming and high-speed access to social networks. At these speeds, the time to download a 500MB file could be as fast as under one minute, compared to over 5 minutes on 3G.
Ronan Dunne, Chief Executive Officer of Telefónica UK (O2), said: “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. The work we are doing now will lay the foundations for our commercial 4G network when it launches in the UK.”
O2 will provide trialists with Samsung B3730 mobile broadband dongles, supporting speeds of up to 100Mbps, and well as 4G personal wireless hotspots and handsets from a number of other vendors. Over 1000 individuals are expected to take part. Among those involved in the trial are a number of exclusive partners, including:
• John Lewis – the leading retailer, John Lewis, is one of O2’s largest corporate customers to be signed to the trial to pilot the benefits of 4G internally and explore the impact it will have on its operations
• The IET – the Institution of Engineering and Technology, with offices at Savoy Place, has joined O2’s efforts to demonstrate 4G capability amongst its membership
• Enterprise Nation – Emma Jones, founder and CEO of Enterprise Nation and co-founder of StartUp Britain, has joined the trial to share the 4G experience through her workshops with those individuals who she aims to help ‘start a business and grow a successful venture’
• The O2 – with its own dedicated 4G internal and external sites providing coverage to The O2 Arena and surrounding area, The O2 will play host to 4G live music video and film streaming demonstrations at the O2 Lounge and O2 Store, for both O2 customers and visitors to enjoy
• Gizmodo UK – readers of the recently launched Gizmodo UK are to be recruited on the trial for a period of three months. They will be selected at a private Gizmodo UK 4G launch party at The O2, and will be invited to provide feedback and content to the site via a reader’s panel
Real-time network performance data, combined with anecdotal feedback from customers, will be collected throughout the trial. The results will be used to influence and shape O2’s plans for the commercial implementation of its forthcoming 4G network, following Ofcom’s 4G spectrum auction, which is expected to take place in 2012.
The O2 4G trial will use the 2.6GHz spectrum band under a Test and Development licence granted to O2 by OFCOM, and is an extension of O2’s earlier 4G trials in Slough that have been running since 2009. The 2.6GHz band supports the maximum 20MHz RF bandwidth for LTE, which allows 4G speeds of up to 150Mbps.
“O2 has been at the heart of the mobile data explosion over the last three years and our priority has always been to build ahead of the curve,” continued Ronan Dunne. “Our work in London will give us a better understanding of the capabilities of 4G technology and will allow us to explore the superfast benefits it will bring to people and industry across the UK. This 4G trial is the next step on our journey to a smarter network - a network that offers a seamless, connected experience across multiple devices, locations and services.
“The forthcoming spectrum auction is a watershed moment for the UK mobile industry, which will see the release of the airwaves capable of powering a whole range of exciting next-generation mobile services. We are actively engaged in the auction and are supportive of a fair process that meets the Government’s and Ofcom’s planned timeline.”
Editor of Gizmodo UK, Kat Hannaford, said, "O2's 4G trial spells great news for the UK and we’re thrilled that readers of our site, launched late September, will be amongst the first in the UK to benefit from these super-fast speeds, helping to test O2’s network. While we still have several years before 4G networks are available to consumers, this is a big step-forward for the industry and an exciting development for the UK’s capital.”
Telefónica UK’s 4G trial network has been deployed using equipment supplied by Nokia Siemens Networks for both the Radio and Core network elements. Backhaul for the 4G trial network has been provided using Microwave Radio Equipment from Cambridge Broadband Networks Limited, NEC and Nokia Siemens Networks.
The trial in London is now live and will run until June 2012."