O2 Switches On “Superfast” London Network

O2 UK has revealed that it switched on a new “superfast” 3G network across London last week, having gained permission to reuse the 900MHz spectrum for 3G services from Ofcom, the UK Communications Regulator, back in January. O2 is the first UK operator to take advantage of the change to its 900MHz network licence and says the new 3G900 network layer in London is expected to deliver a 50 per cent increase in capacity to its existing 3G network.

The 900MHz frequency band was previously only licensed for 2G services in the UK, but it offers the capability to significantly improve the potential of 3G services. Since being granted its new network licence in January, O2 has deployed 3G900 services in key cities across the UK, including Leeds, Birmingham and Manchester, with other cities set to follow in the coming months.

The operator says that rigorous customer experience testing has shown that, on average, O2 customers on 3G900 compatible devices – iPhone4, iPad2 and other UMTS/HSPA 900MHz compatible smartphones and tablets – are now receiving data 30 per cent faster than before the new spectrum was allocated for 3G use. Network capacity in the areas where 3G900 has been rolled out has also increased by 50 per cent.

“This 3G900 switch-on is the latest in a series of network enhancements for O2, and is a first for the UK and Telefónica,” says Telefónica O2 UK, chief technology officer, Nigel Purdy. “We’ve acted quickly to bring the benefits of 3G over 900MHz spectrum to our customers and we’re thrilled with the results. Quite simply, on O2’s network, more customers can use more data, and experience it quicker.”

O2 has also released the results of a survey of UK mobile networks carried out by SIRODA. The survey compares the data speeds of all five UK operators. The tests, conducted over a 60-day period across 169 static test locations, measured mobile data connection speed at peak periods throughout the day. The tests show that, between October 2010 and January 2011, O2 offered the best data experience in 12 out of 13 cities. On average, web page access on the O2 network was delivered in 1.4 seconds, over three times quicker than the slowest operator, tough O2 does not reveal how much faster it was than the second-placed operator.

Data performance was measured by testing the time to access a webpage and the speed of downloading a typical music file. Tests were conducted between 8am and 9pm Monday to Sunday, replicating genuine user patterns. Cities covered included London, Bristol, Edinburgh, Leeds, Liverpool, Newcastle and Sheffield.