The SouthWest is extending its position as the key areas for testing the latest LTE (long-term evolution) 4G technology, writes Sian Harris. Cornish trials to deliver broadband in rural areas are being extended until June, while commercial trials of 4G technology are happening in Bristol, Swindon and the Thames Valley.
In Cornwall 180 customers living in and around St. Newlyn East are testing a unique combination of mobile and fixed technology. It was due to end at the end of January but Ofcom has granted an extension to the temporary radio licence until the end of June so that the partners – Everything Everywhere and BT Wholesale – can continue the study.
The trial users previously had no broadband or struggled to get speeds of 2 Mbps. According to the partners, the trial is now giving these participants an average download speed of 7 Mbps, which is enabling them to access a range of content including on-demand television, HD video and VoIP services.
Providing broadband to rural users is a hot topic in the UK today, with the government pushing for every home in Britain to have at least a 2Mbps connection by 2015.
“The industry needs to work together to tackle the issue of rural broadband for the last 10% very hard-to-reach areas. Two or three thousand premises in the UK really don’t receive broadband at all, said Dave Axam, director of managed services business development for BT Wholesale, at the LTE/EPC & Converged Mobile Backhaul conference in London.
With this target in mind the two partners – a mobile operator and a fixed operator – launched a trial in October 2011 to see whether LTE wireless technology could provide the infrastructure to meet this need. The partnership enables Everything Everywhere’s wireless technology to be used in combination with BT’s fibre network.
The partners chose Cornwall for the trial because of its largely-rural nature and because the digital television switchover was complete in the county, freeing up the 800MHz radio spectrum for the trial. This spectrum is good for rural areas because it has a relatively long wavelength and low attentuation by obstacles so can serve a longer range than higher-frequency spectrum. In addition, Cornwall recently received a European Union grant for superfast fibre rollout.
In addition to trying out LTE as a way of providing rural broadband, the trial experimented with another concept: the idea of a fixed operator and a mobile operator sharing the same network. The partners set up two eNodeB trial sites, for which BT provided dedicated fibre backhaul.
“The uniqueness of the trial is that both ourselves and BT have deployed our own packet core networks. This enables the customer experience to be controlled independently across the two mobile and fixed service sets, allowing for an optimised use of the radio resources available,” said Tim Rawling, principal solutions designer at Everything Everywhere and one of the team involved in the trial.
He explained that each eNodeB trial site is connected via a BT Openreach circuit (Etherway), supporting a 300Mbps capacity into the site. Separate VLANs provide connectivity via the BT 21 CN network back to separate packet core networks at Bristol for the mobile dongle customers and Adastral Park near Ipswich for the BT fixed customers. He added that the technical design and build of the network took around six months from concept to going live.
At the customer end, the BT triallists gain access to their network using one of three different types of router, the smallest of which looks much like any broadband router – except that its fixed position is near a window rather than a telephone socket – and the largest is similar to a small television aerial (a similarity that is not surprising given what the radio spectrum was used for until recently). Everything Everywhere’s trial customers access mobile broadband via an LTE dongle.
Of course the trial has met challenges. According to Rawling, “a key challenge was in selecting sites that provided a suitable trial area (filling significant ‘not spots’) without compromising the current network coverage or stability, and getting sufficient backhaul to these sites.”
Another challenge, he added, was “finding a way to combine fixed and wireless technologies whilst providing a stable and consistent experience to our trialists. A main initial finding is that the complementary technical assets of Everything Everywhere and BT can work together to enable a consistent broadband experience for our customers,” said Rawling.
The customers are unlikely to be too concerned about the network details but so far triallists seem happy with their experiences. One triallist Mark Jose, commented that the trial has enabled his family to enjoy streaming movies and participating in fast online gaming, which was previously not possible for them.
Another triallist, Tamasin Battell, noted: “Before the 4G trial downloading anything was impossible; it was so slow. Now, we can watch on-demand television and stream music. Better still, my fiancé’s sister in Australia has met her four-month-old nephew for the first time over Skype. The extension of the trial is a godsend for me, as I really don’t want to go back to the digital dark age.”
- Rural Britain gets a boost, as the 4G LTE broadband trial is extended until June 2012 (thenextweb.com)
- BT, EE’s mobe broadband trial jump-starts Cornish village (go.theregister.com)
- Everything Everywhere Planning 4G Network in 2012 (rightmobilephone.co.uk)
- UK Broadband flicks switch on Blighty’s first 4G network (go.theregister.com)
Over 200 mobile professionals and developers gathered in Bath for the Big M conference on Monday, looking at a range of key issues for the mobile industry.
David Simpson has written a great review here: http://davidsimpson.me/2011/03/23/the-big-m-conference-bath/ and highlights Paul Golding’s presentation on future innovations.
Paul, the lead Innovation Architect and CEO of Wireless Wanders in Swindon, is a great example of the strength of the region – he has been on the leading edge of the mobile industry for 20 years, defining, designing and implementing many new products and services. He is the inventor of the first ever mobile internet portal (Zingo), designed for Lucent Technologies in 1997 and developed further for NTT DoCoMo in 1998. He was recently consulting as Motorola‘s Chief Applcations Architect and now resides at O2 as a founder member of “The Lab,” which is an “intrapreneurial” venture to exploit new business opportunities using Web start-up methodologies. He also founded the O2 Incubator. He is also a mentor in the Springboard Incubator program.
His presentation from the Big M is here and well worth a read: http://www.slideshare.net/pgolding/big-m-conference-future-mobile-innovations
- Motorola Mobility Announces Intent to Acquire Dreampark (prnewswire.com)
- Future of innovation: Readers’ predictions about mobile gadgets. (slate.com)
Deltenna in Chippenham is highlighted in the Computer Weekly roundup of UK firms making a splash at the global gathering of mobile phone companies in Barcelona, Mobile World Congress, later this month. The story at looks at what Deltenna is doing with a specialist antenna system for the home to boost reception and provide broadband WiFi access in rural areas.
But there are several others from the region: chip makers picoChip in Bath, Icera in Bristol and Nujira, which has a design centre in Bath, are also at the show showing the latest mobile phone technology, while equipment makers Ubiquisys of Swindon and AceAxis, with a radio design centre in Bristol, are also present at the show and chip and system maker IPWireless is also driving mobile phone technology forward from Chippenham with deals with Ericsson and Apple.
- Icera announces world’s smallest HSPA+ platform for Android smartphones (intomobile.com)
- Mobile World Congress 2011 in numbers (intomobile.com)
- Ubiquisys unveils Attocell: personal femtocell designed to work internationally, make dreams come true (engadget.com)
- Rural businesses offered 3G boosting device (v3.co.uk)