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O2 4G trial from 25 masts in London
Monday 14 November 2011 10:04:02 by Andrew Ferguson

O2 is the latest mobile broadband provider to announce a 4G trial, the trial is set to last some nine months and will involve 1,000 people who will be invited to join the trial.

This trial is a just about mobile broadband, due to the lack of compatible handsets at this time and will use Samsung dongles and 3G mobile routers. The area covered will be Canary Wharf, Soho, Westminster, South Bank and Kings Cross.

The Guardian article reveals an interesting snippet of information, this trial network will have more capacity than O2's entire national 3G network. In theory 4G can manage 150 Mbps, but the trial is expected to deliver 25 Mbps to 50 Mbps, with expectations of speeds of 10 to 15 Mbps once 4G is finally rolled out across the UK.

The 4G auctions are expected in 2013, though Ofcom is under pressure to get up and running earlier. 4G does hold some promise for connecting areas which are sparsely populated, and in those areas with small numbers of users on a mast, decent speeds should be possible.


Posted by farrina over 5 years ago
Typo alert!

due to the *lake* of compatible handsets
Posted by john (Favicon staff member) over 5 years ago
that's been fixed already :-)


Posted by andrew (Favicon staff member) over 5 years ago
A lake of mobile handsets - a dali moment I guess.
Posted by mitchja over 5 years ago
O2 still don't even offer me 3G here, so I'm not holding my breath for 4G anytime soon!

Although here's hoping for 3G now O2 are actively rolling out 3G900 across their entire network.
Posted by timmay over 5 years ago
Mobile operators really have got a challenge ahead. I don't think they can keep up with the demand and speeds on 4G will likely be what they are like on 3G now by the time it is wide spread. O2's 3g coverage is very poor and their 2G coverage (in Kent) is getting worse.
Posted by bosie over 5 years ago
My 2GB monthly allowance is already used up and I'm waiting for the date to roll to be taken off traffic management (basically it's not useable). O2 recently removed the 2GB product and you can only buy 1GB on new contracts. I wonder how many days usage I would have at 2GB on 4G? It's not currently possible to permanently buy more allowance except for a discretionary £10 for 1GB to tide you over. The map suggests I'm in a 4G area - would love to try it.
Posted by c_j_ over 5 years ago
What's the proposed backhaul from cell mast to core network? In some parts of London it might plausibly be something other than DSL, but elsewhere, after the trial? How do you get better-than-DSL-class performance (or pricing) when you're using DSL-class links for cell-to-backbone connectivity?

1000 people in 25 cells; are we back to 50:1 (well, 40:1) contention on the cell->core link?
Posted by New_Londoner over 5 years ago
Surely the connectivity to the masts will be Ethernet rather than DSL?
Posted by c_j_ over 5 years ago
"Surely the connectivity to the masts will be Ethernet rather than DSL?"

Ethernet over what? Ethernet is just the way you present the link (for the purposes of this discussion anyway).

Fibre to the mast would be good for bandwidth but unrealistic for coverage (and costs?).

Huge numbers of today's masts use DSL because it's fast enough and available enough. Move the performance goal up an order of magnitude, and then what?

You can of course use smaller cells to reduce the need for bandwidth per cell. Then you need more cells.

Someone must have looked at this?
Posted by andrew (Favicon staff member) over 5 years ago
Masts are interconnected using microwave for this trial, have the release in my inbox
Posted by c_j_ over 5 years ago
"Masts are interconnected using microwave for this trial, have the release in my inbox "

And does the release say what bandwidth per cell the microwave provides?

I presume there's a reason they've stopped using microwave in general as an interconnect?
Posted by herdwick over 5 years ago
They haven't stopped using microwave in general, I would say most mast feature at least one microwave dish so they are either backhauled by it or backhauling another one.

Leased lines be they fibre, EFM, SDSL or whatever are used. Many telephone exchanges have end points of cellular microwave nets on their roof.
Posted by herdwick over 5 years ago
Last time I read up on manufacturers literature for 4G about 40 Mbits/s was the likely total sector throughput ie all O2 customers on a 120 or 90 degree sector would be sharing that.

So the contention ratio is likely to be the number of users connecting to a particular antenna
Posted by therioman over 5 years ago
Given how poor O2s 3G service is, it wouldn't take a lot for them to offer more bandwidth on a small 4G trial than they have nationally for 3G.

O2 is by far the worst network for 3G coverage, and was the main reason I moved our primary business account elsewhere after many years. With any luck, they'll steal a march on everyone else and just move to 4G (OK, well whatever they're doing that they're calling 4G since it isn't actually 4G)
Posted by c_j_ over 5 years ago
"They haven't stopped using microwave in general"

Quite possibly not - what I meant to be saying was that they'd stopped using microwave *for new build*, because there are in general better alternatives than microwave (especially for the large numbers of invisible in-fill cells). Apologies for lack of clarity.
Posted by coopermarsh over 5 years ago
There are using Microwave backhaul

A british company Cambridge BroadBand Networks are providing the backhaul equipment
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