Telefonica, parent company to O2, have announced trials in 6 different countries, including the UK, of Long Term Evolution (LTE), a next-generation mobile broadband technology that will offer users a faster service. Telefonica will be using the trial to evaluate equipment in the field and to determine its strategy for deploying its next generation network. The trials will use six different hardware manufacturers including Alcatel-Lucent, Ericsson, Huawei, NEC, Nokia Siemens Network, and ZTE.
"At Telefónica we are working with the conviction that we can only offer our clients the maximum levels of quality and innovation. To do this, we are defining our strategy and the rollout of LTE with the objective of driving mobile broadband and offering the best service from the moment that the equipment and terminals can support the new standards and are available for sale."Julio Linares, (COO) Telefónica
Telefonica demonstrated LTE in April this year with Ericsson in Madrid. The test involved a VoIP call in a video call, and also downloads of data and images at speeds in excess of 140 meg. When a live service, they expect to offer a peak speed of 340 meg. To put that in to perspective, it's nearly 50 times faster than the 7.2 meg mobile broadband that is currently commonly available in the UK (athough Vodafone have a few areas which support up to 14.4 meg). Best of fixed-line broadband, currently fibre-to-the-home (FTTH) deployments, support only 100 meg services, although fibre does offer the ability to be upgraded to faster speeds such as 1 Gbps in the future.
LTE is however only a 3G technology (it doesn't meet the ITU's requirement for 4G which includes peak data rates of 1 Gbps), and as such, work is already under-way for it's 4G replacement - LTE Advanced - which will support these. Even in the non-advanced form, LTE has the potential to be a fixed-line broadband killer as the speeds available will rival those of fixed broadband services which are likely to stay around a maximum of 24meg for many users for several years to come. Indeed, for some even these speeds are a pipe dream due to either poor quality or long telephone lines. The governments universal broadband commitment only looking to promise 2meg to users doesn't help advance this significantly.
Of course, some users are more lucky, and in areas where Virgin Media cable services are available, they can currently get 50 meg broadband which is likely to rise to 100 meg or perhaps 200 meg in the future when there is more demand for speed, and competition to rival it. For those without, LTE may prove to be the best solution to get fast broadband.