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Cornish villagers treated to 4G trial

Telcos agree to test tech together

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The collaborative trial of 4G networking tech has kicked off in Cornwall, with the intention of providing internet access to 200 people around St Newlyn East, half of them mobile.

It's the combination of fixed and mobile subscribers, using the same frequency, which makes the trials interesting. LTE is already deployed in half a dozen countries, and UK operators have been running closed trials for a year or two, but when BT and Everything Everywhere announced the trials in May it was clear that they were trying something new in providing both fixed and mobile wireless over the same infrastructure.

Not that those 200 people have connections yet; we're told that BT engineers will be dropping round to the 100 fixed locations to supply routers and (quite possibly) fit antennas to a few outside walls. Mobile users will get dongles for their laptops. No one will be making phone calls over the 2-base-station network.

That network only covers 25km2, so not very mobile either. But there are two base stations: one from Nokia Siemens Networks and the other from Huawei, so participating punters will be able to test handoff between the two.

Sharing radio spectrum between fixed and mobile applications is part of the flexibility that LTE offers. The fourth-generation technology isn't significantly faster than its immediate predecessor, for a specific amount of frequency, but it is much more flexible in being able to use wider bands (and thus provide greater speeds) and offers a much-more granular control over radio usage.

That should make sharing possible, but it is the practicalities that the trials are supposed to test. So this isn't about seeing if LTE can provide fast and flexible wireless – we know that it can – this is rather about seeing if network operators can save costs by combining resources. ®

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