Cornwall is to be the location of the UK’s first consumer trial of LTE, a fourth-generation mobile broadband technology that enables speedy web browsing on smartphones.
Analysts said the trial highlighted the way in which 4G mobile technology was expected to play an important role in providing fast broadband in parts of rural Britain, where internet access can be poor.
Everything Everywhere, the UK’s largest mobile phone operator, and BT, the leading fixed-line company, announced on Wednesday that they had joined forces to run the trial this September. It will involve about 200 Cornish homes and businesses near Newquay.
LTE provides much faster data download speeds on smartphones and laptops than existing 3G networks. The download speeds on 4G networks are comparable to basic fixed-line broadband.
Everything Everywhere and BT are building a 4G network that will cover an area of about 25 sq km where there is little or no broadband internet access.
The participating homes and businesses will be supplied with wireless modems, nicknamed “dongles”, which can be used to connect laptops to the internet. Everything Everywhere is also seeking to test some 4G-enabled handsets.
The government is expected to keep a close eye on the trial because of its target to increase broadband availability.
Jeremy Hunt, the culture secretary, said last year that by 2015 all of Britain’s homes should have download speeds of 2 megabits per second, which is fast enough to watch internet video services such as the BBC’s iPlayer.
Ofcom estimates that about 4m of Britain’s 26m homes, mainly those in rural areas, do not have download speeds of 2mbps.
Britain has been relatively slow to adopt 4G networks. Consumers in countries including Japan and the US are already enjoying the benefits of LTE, but UK mobile operators are not expected to build large-scale 4G networks until 2013.