Hands on: BT and Everything Everywhere 4G network

David Ludlow
29 Nov 2011

We get to trial the super-fast mobile network in Cornwall

Addressing rural broadband issues has been tricky, as fixed infrastructure has been considered too expensive, while mobile technology has lagged behind in both coverage and reliable speeds.

Down in Cornwall a different future is being investigated and we were on-hand in St Newlyn East to get a first-hand look at the Long-Term Evolution (LTE) wireless trial operated jointly between BT and Everything Everywhere.

LTE, or 4G as its more commonly known as, is the next evolution of mobile data, promising better coverage and faster data rates, with the benefits of using existing infrastructure.

Down in Cornwall it’s currently being investigated for two potential uses. First, as you’d expect, is mobile data using USB dongles. Secondly, is fixed infrastructure, using a BT hub that’s permanently connected to the LTE network, sharing the connection via Wi-Fi and Ethernet ports.

4G dongle

Speed demon

Initial results from the trial have been promising. Sat 5km from the nearest mast, in the National Trust property Trerice, we saw live demonstrations of the network running at between 6.83Mbit/s and 20.55Mbit/s, as measured by This setup used a hub with an external aerial to improve reception and speed.

4G hub

As this is a live network and connections aren’t capped, this kind of variation is to be expected. Even so, the low-end of the connection speed is a fairly average entry-level broadband connection in an area with fixed broadband.

Higher speeds are potentially possible, but turning up the speed can reduce reliability for some people. During the trial BT and Everything Everywhere discovered that most people wanted a consistent and reliable speed, over the

One of the benefits of LTE is that the speed drop off is slow the further you get to the edge of the cell.

“It’s a slow drop off, with many people on the trial getting 8Mbit/s, but people a fair way away from the antenna are getting 4-to-5Mbit/s,” said Dave Axam, director of business development at BT Wholesale.

Part of the reason for this is that LTE is more dynamic than 3G, able to alter it signal to deal better with transmissions at distance.

While these trial speeds may not match the 30Mbit/s the European Commission has said is required by all surfers, the fact is that it’s a big step up from the very poor speeds that some people in rural locations are getting.

For many the change is dramatic. Hailey Gaffney of Quintrell Downs in Cornwall has been trialling the LTE service since it launched, giving her a broadband speeds a boost from 1.53Mbit/s to more than 11Mbit/s.

“It means I can work from home, watch TV on demand and upload photos and videos to Facebook,” said Gaffney.

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