4G brings superfast broadband to everyone

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A new wireless technology to provide rural areas faster broadband speed was experimented at Cornwall. Shoppers went to St Newlyn East, near Newquay, to witness Long-Term Evolution (LTE) project, or called 4G.

Description: 4G LTE

Up to now most users at rural areas cannot have had high-speed wide broadband due to cost of providing fixed infrastructure in remote areas and lack of reliable national mobile coverage.

The experiment, operated together by BT and Everything Everywhere mobile firm, was checked by using mobile data via USB dongles, BT’s hubs connected eternally with LTE, and then with devices through Wi-Fi or Ethernet.

Speed monster

Initial results from the experiment prove to be promising. An illustration carried out far from the nearest cell station at a distance of 5 km shows a speed from 6.83 Mbytes/s and 20.55 Mbytes/s, measured by This set-up uses a hub with external aerial to improve receiving and speed.

Because this is a direct network and there are not many connections, you can wait for change. Despite so, the lowest speed of connection is equivalent to basic package in an area with fixed wide broadband. Higher speed can be reached but reliability may reduce.

LET does not provide 100% coverage, but it reduces the numbers and sizes of message packages that are currently not receiving signals. Another big benefit of LET is that unlike 3G, it can change signal energetically to process far transmission. This means speed does not reduced when you move afar from the cell station.

‘It is descending, with many people receiving a speed of 8 Mbytes/s, and others quite afar from cell station receive 4 to 5 Mbytes/s,’ said Dave Axam, BT Wholesale’s business development manager.

While these experimental speeds may not be compared to the speed of 30 Mbytes/s that was said to be necessary for all internet users by European Urban, it is still a big increase for most people in rural areas.

For many people, this change is very considerable. Hailey Gaffney, living at Quintrell Downs, Cornwall, tried LET service when it was launched, and saw that her wide broadband speed increased from 1.53Mbytes/s in average to 11Mbytes/s.

‘It means I can work at home, watch TV according to needs, as well as upload photos and videos to Facebook,’ said she.

Quick responses

Mobile networks are also impeded by the time of lateness – the time it takes to send a message package and receive a reply. The higher the lateness on connection is, the slower the website responses. This causes using websites requiring quick response time such as website for game playing becomes infeasible.

LTE’s lateness is very low although it is dependent on the number of people using network at that time and the kind of connection used. In ping check by using a 4G dongle, we measured lateness time lower than 30ms, which is quite good for playing game. On a laptop connected to hug through Wi-Fi, we saw ping time was 69ms, which was extremely impressive.

How about frequency?

The key for 4G experiment’s success is low frequency transmission. The network uses 800MHz bandwhich expands network’s coverage range beyond current restriction, and it means that data can go through thick objects such as a dry stone wall. If compared, high frequencies such as 2600MHz band do better at a short range, which makes it more suitable for rural areas.

Problem with 800MHz band is that it will not be free until analogue TV channels is cut off and sold. With the estimated auction at the end of 2012, the 4G network will not be sure to be launched until 2013 as the soonest.

Another problem with spectrum and the way it is divided is that O2 and Vodafone firms are using 900MHz band, which gives them initial advantage in 4G. BT and Everything Everywhere hope that the auction will upgrade the playground.

‘What we want is re-balance,’ said Paul Coffey, Everything Everywhere’s strategy development manager. ‘Everything Everywhere should have access to 800MHz band.’

For customers to have real choices, new spectrum distribution also makes sure that Three, the smallest mobile network firm at the UK, has a part of 800MHz band.

Development’s cost

Description: 4G LTE

One of the biggest barriers for 4G’s success is cost. Checkers to whom we talked are all unanimous that the service needs a price similar to current wide broadband package.

‘We paid similar amount of money to receive less,’ said Hailey Gaffney, implying current wide broadband services at Cornwall. ‘If it is much more expensive, we will not pay for it.’

To reduce cost, BT and Everything Everywhere are sharing resources anywhere possible such as current mobile aerials used in the experiment, and current optic cable with BT 21CN network. Then, data are sent to BT or Everything Everywhere’s data centre, depending on the fact that its source is mobile or fixed connection. Such cost savings can decide the network’s success.

‘We have to consider financial factor,’ explained Coffey. ‘We will not build new websites.’

The biggest problem for launching new mobile networks is that infrastructure is usually placed at big cities at first since high population density assures higher investment profits. With BT and Everything Everywhere providing two different services via 4G network, it can be stable in financial side.

Next steps

Currently, BT or Everything Everywhere does not have any clear plan to start selling 4G service because spectrum is not available to support it. Internet users in rural areas will have to wait for successful result of the auction at the end of this year before everything can progress.

4G’s fast connection speed gives it a potential to provide another real choice in addition to fixed wide broadband services. Therefore, it is a pity if rural communities have to wait one more year for it to appear. As a person commented in the experiment, ‘certainly I will need psychological consultancy when you take these boxes.’
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