Residents of St Newlyn East and South Newquay in Cornwall have become the first in the UK to receive 4G LTE services on their mobile phones, thanks to trials of the technology which have kicked off today.
Mobile provider Everything Everywhere - known as T-Mobile and Orange in old money - is running the trial of 200 subscribers, which was first announced back in May.
LTE is one of several potential successors to the current 3G standards for mobile broadband access, and the one likely to be most widely adopted as 4G around the globe. It promises theoretical transfer speeds of up to 300Mbps directly to a handset, although it's unlikely that the denizens of Cornwall will be getting anything like that.
Note for Americans. HSPA+ is not 4G. Doesn't matter what the ITU say .
The 25 square kilometre area in Cornwall was chosen because it's one of the UK's many rural 'not spots', where traditional ADSL can't be used to provide a reliable service. Everything Everywhere has partnered with BT Wholesale for the test, in order to see if their network has the capability to extend domestic as well as mobile internet services in to hard to reach areas. Of the 200 participants, 100 have been issued with next gen handsets, while the rest are testing fixed line kit.
Telecoms regulator Ofcom is planning to auction off licences for the 800MHz and 2.6GHz wireless spectrum suitable for 4G LTE next year. It announced today, however, that there will be holding another round of consultations on the subject, pushing the actual auction back to late summer 2012 or beyond. The government will no doubt be hoping for a repeat of the 2001 windfall of £22.5bn that a similar process for 3G licences raised. The first nationwide networks are expected to appear in 2013, which will leave the UK behind only such technological trailblazers as, um, Uzbekistan for mobile connectivity.
In the meantime, if anyone in St Newlyn East fancies letting me know what their Battlefield 3 ping is like over 4G, I'd really like to know.