LTE is far from being a widely available technology, but operators in some countries — such as the U.S., Russia and Sweden — have been quicker off the mark to offer it than others. Today, the UK could have seen its first bid to join that group, as BT (NYSE: BT) and Everything Everywhere (the JV of T-Mobile UK and Orange UK) announced that they would begin its first 4G trials later this year, in a remote area in the west of England.
The news comes on the same day that in the U.S. AT&T (NYSE: T) confirmed the first five markets — Atlanta, Chicago, Dallas, Houston and San Antonio — for its commercial LTE launch this summer. Its arch competitor Verizon launched LTE last year.
The BT/Everything Everywhere trial will take place in one of the remotest parts of the country, in St Newlyn East south of Newquay (see the map below). It is taking applications now from residents interested in the trial and aims to cover 100 fixed locations and 100 mobile users.
A live trial is not the same as a proper commercial service — all costs will be paid for by the operators, in exchange for putting the network “through its paces” — yet it is the closest that the UK has come to having a 4G service.
The government in the UK has yet to auction off spectrum and licenses for LTE services — this is due to take place in 2013. For what it’s worth, it has set a goal of having the fastest broadband in Europe by 2015.
But it has also imposed goals to cover virtually all of the UK’s population with that fast broadband — something that would be difficult with fixed infrastructure but potentially doable with wireless technologies like LTE.
It’s not clear whether BT and Everything Everywhere would potentially partner up for full-blown commercial services; in any event, BT would probably be involved in some kind of wholesale deal for backhaul for any wireless operator providing a nationwide LTE service.
This trial, scheduled to run from September to December, will be supported by equipment from Huawei and Nokia (NYSE: NOK) Siemens Networks, and will involve both handsets and dongles.