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Welsh mountains to get LTE broadband where there are no wires

While the digital switchover in the UK is not scheduled until 2012, parts of Wales have already switched, operating as pioneers in order to get the pr

By PETER WHITE

Published: 9 December, 2010

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While the digital switchover in the UK is not scheduled until 2012, parts of Wales have already switched, operating as pioneers in order to get the process right for the rest of the UK.

Which has left a lot of UHF spectrum up for grabs to get other things right and now UK broadcasting expert Arqiva, which runs most of the UK’s broadcast networks, and Alcatel-Lucent are running an LTE aimed at providing rural broadband.

The trial in West Wales is hoped to deliver speeds of over 50Mbps, which of course will be shared among several homes, but which could bring decent home broadband to the last estimated 10% of UK households which say they cannot get it over a fixed line.

The trial is in the Preseli Mountains, and is aimed at demonstrating the economic feasibility of a wireless network as a route to extending broadband Internet services to which can’t get speeds faster than 2Mbps. This will be homes which are about 6.5 kilometers from a local exchange or more, or which have older local exchanges where it is not economical to upgrade its backhaul.

The Preseli Mountains area combines low population density with dispersed communities, making it typical of areas that can’t be reached economically with existing fixed networks. Alcatel says that it is involved in over 40 LTE trials around the world.

Arqiva’s neutral-host network solution would offer wholesale access to all service providers and new entrants which means that the broadband is extended while at the same time maintaining competition at the service layer, so consumers could still have a choice across the rural regions. This sits well with Arqiva’s existing models where it broadcast TV for multiple TV channels, and runs it as a service for them, and sells spare capacity in auctions. In the UK this would represent broadband to around 2 million households.

Commenting on the announcement Lakh Jemmett, Alcatel-Lucent's President, North Europe said: "LTE technology offers the potential to accelerate the availability of broadband services to individuals and businesses that do not have access to services that many of us take for granted. It also paves the way for access to a plethora of new applications.”

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