Alca-Lu tests LTE 800MHz for UK rural broadband coverage

West Wales has been selected by Alcatel-Lucent as the site for the UK's first trial of LTE at 800Mhz. The company, which is working with the services firm Arqiva, said that the system is being used to demonstrate to various industry and government bodies the viability of providing high-speed broadband to rural areas using LTE at 800MHz.

The test system, which is using a single antenna located in the Preseli Mountains, is operating in the 800MHz spectrum made available following the local switch over to digital TV. However, the company admitted that the trial conditions were very constrained by the licence conditions imposed by Ofcom, the telecoms regulator, to avoid interference with nearby existing TV services.

At this stage, said Simon Lowe, an Alca-Lu spokesman on LTE, the aim of the trial was to prove that LTE 800MHz could provide a broadband service to rural areas. "We believe we are the first to conduct this trial at 800MHz, and we have already achieved downlink speeds of over 2Mbps at a distance of 23km from the antenna."

"If this trial proves successful, then we might look to extend usage to a select number of consumers," said Lowe. "At present we are demoing the capabilities using a vehicle equipped with LTE 800MHz devices."

Arqiva, which operates parts of the UK's broadcast infrastructure, said that it intended to offer wholesale LTE network access to all service providers and new entrants into the UK communications market.

According to Jonathan Freeman, Arqiva's head of strategic business development, from its perspective the trial was to test the economic and technical viability of the neutral host model using LTE as the technology enabler. "This means the use of shared infrastructure as a way of complementing the fixed networks and delivering broadband for all."

"The trial is more of a feasibility study to better understand if LTE can provide better than the low speeds [<500Kbps] being received today in West Wales. We have achieved downlink speeds of >50Mbps at distances of 6-7kms from the LTE transmitter," said Freeman.

Earlier this year, Clear Mobitel announced that it would conduct the UK's first live consumer trial of LTE 800MHz to provide high-speed broadband to rural Cornwall. However, the trial has still to go live--the launch date is now scheduled for early next year--following a delay caused by a lack of suitable terminals.

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