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John Lewis works with O2 to show what superfast 4G can do for retailers in London trial

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Department store John Lewis is working in partnership with O2 as part of the network operator’s London-based trial of superfast next generation 4G mobile broadband services. The move comes just days after eBay lobbied government to look at using m-commerce services to help claw its way out of recession in a manifesto presented to downing street.

The 4G trial will offer super fast broadband services akin to high speed fibre internet access and will cover Canary Wharf, Soho, Westminster, South Bank and Kings Cross. O2 will provide trialists with Samsung B3730 mobile broadband dongles, supporting speeds of up to 100Mbps, and well as 4G personal wireless hotspots and handsets from a number of other vendors. Over 1000 individuals are expected to take part.

John Lewis is one of many businesses taking part in the trial. It is one of O2’s corporate customers and will be assessing the impact of 4G on its internal operations. It will be joined by trialists from Enterprise Nation, Gizmodo and the IET, as well as selected O2 customers.

The network will enable O2 to provide a mobile internet experience comparable to the fastest landline fibre home broadband connections, unlocking a wealth of services including high speed corporate LAN access, high-definition film and music streaming, mobile online gaming and high-speed access to social networks. At these speeds, the time to download a 500MB file could be as fast as under one minute, compared to over 5 minutes on 3G.

Ronan Dunne, Chief Executive Officer of Telefónica UK (O2), says of the trial that will run from now until the summer and covers some 40 square kilometers of the capital: “Today’s launch of the UK’s first 4G London trial network demonstrates our commitment to delivering 4G to our customers at the earliest opportunity. The work we are doing now will lay the foundations for our commercial 4G network when it launches in the UK.”

eBay, which days earlier launched its mobile manifesto that sets out what the industry and policymakers need to do in seven critical areas to support the mobile economy and further boost the UK’s wider economic recovery, has welcomed the trial.

Miriam Lahage, Vice President of Global Fashion at eBay, said: “It is very encouraging to see O2 commit to trialling 4G high-speed mobile internet in London. As we set out in our Mobile Manifesto, accelerating 4G rollout is critical to the success of the UK mobile economy as over 45% of consumers are currently dissatisfied with the speed at which they can complete everyday functions like browsing and shopping on their smartphones.

“This O2 initiative is an important step to improving UK mobile infrastructure, and will give consumers in London a taste of what is to come after the 4G rollout. Ofcom should proceed with the auction of the 4G spectrum as quickly as possible so consumers and the industry can benefit from the next generation of mobile broadband.”

eBay recently announced a revised global m-commerce forecast – predicting that it will generate almost $5bn in sales volume in 2011 ($1bn more than the $4bn prediction made earlier this year). The development of the Mobile Manifesto also follows research conducted for eBay by retail experts Verdict that shows mobile shopping could deliver a £4.5bn boost to Britain’s economy by 2016, and a further 13bn by 2021.

The O2 4G trial will use the 2.6GHz spectrum band under a Test and Development licence granted to O2 by OFCOM, and is an extension of O2’s earlier 4G trials in Slough that have been running since 2009. The 2.6GHz band supports the maximum 20MHz RF bandwidth for LTE (Long Term Evolution – the name given to 4G in mobile circles to cement its future-proof credentials), which allows 4G speeds of up to 150Mbps.

“O2 has been at the heart of the mobile data explosion over the last three years and our priority has always been to build ahead of the curve,” continued Ronan Dunne. “Our work in London will give us a better understanding of the capabilities of 4G technology and will allow us to explore the superfast benefits it will bring to people and industry across the UK. This 4G trial is the next step on our journey to a smarter network – a network that offers a seamless, connected experience across multiple devices, locations and services.

“The forthcoming spectrum auction is a watershed moment for the UK mobile industry, which will see the release of the airwaves capable of powering a whole range of exciting next-generation mobile services. We are actively engaged in the auction and are supportive of a fair process that meets the Government’s and Ofcom’s planned timeline.”

Editor of Gizmodo UK, Kat Hannaford, said, “O2’s 4G trial spells great news for the UK and we’re thrilled that readers of our site, launched late September, will be amongst the first in the UK to benefit from these super-fast speeds, helping to test O2’s network. While we still have several years before 4G networks are available to consumers, this is a big step-forward for the industry and an exciting development for the UK’s capital.”

Telefónica UK’s 4G trial network has been deployed using equipment supplied by Nokia Siemens Networks for both the Radio and Core network elements. Backhaul for the 4G trial network has been provided using Microwave Radio Equipment from Cambridge Broadband Networks Limited, NEC and Nokia Siemens Networks.

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