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EE and BT get LTE extension

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Ofcom has granted BT and Everything Everywhere an extension to their test licence for cohabited LTE spectrum until the end of 2012, much to the relief of the trialists.

The trial, which is testing how effectively LTE can be used to share radio spectrum, was supposed to wind up at the end of January, which would have left the 180 trialists falling back to their sub-1Mb/sec ADSL service, but will now be extended until the end of 2012.

The extension isn't entirely surprising. When the trial was first announced it was imagined the spectrum would be auctioned off early this year, but now the mega-auction has been pushed back until the tail of 2012 (at best), there's no chance of the new owners turning up wanting to measure up for a sofa or similar.

The trial was set up to see if the business model for LTE couldn't be stretched out by sharing a single frequency, and network infrastructure, between fixed and mobile providers. So a 20MHz band which used to carry analogue TV was shared between EE, for mobile, and BT, for fixed, reducing the cost for all concerned.

The question was whether the bandwidth could be dynamically portioned between the companies. The LTE standard should make such dynamic allocation possible, but field trials are the only way to be sure.

Those trials have been almost entirely successful, so the extension will probably focus more on the business model as well as providing a test bed where the companies involved could, for example, test the technology's tolerance to interference.

But the trialists will be prepared to put up with that. Talking to some of them last month one could sense their foreboding at the oncoming switch-off: giving up bandwidth one has had is hard, so they'll be very relieved that the fateful day is to be postponed. ®

* That's "happy Cornish", in case you're wondering.

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