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Swindon first UK local authority to deploy borough-wide 4G

Five-year agreement with UK Broadband and Capita will save the council £480,000

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Swindon Council has begun deploying a borough-wide 4G Long term Evolution (LTE) network in a bid to encourage mobile working among its councillors, who intend to spend less time working at their desks and more time in the community.

The council has selected UK Broadband and Capita to implement the technology, and over the lifetime of the five-year deal expects to save approximately £480,000.

The reason Swindon is able to benefit from 4G before UK mobile operators are able to offer LTE services, who are waiting for an Ofcom regulated spectrum auction at the end of the year, is that UK Broadband already holds spectrum in bands 42 and 43, which was reclassified for 4G use in March of last year.

UK Broadband holds 124Mhz of the 3.5Ghz to 3.6Ghz spectrum, which falls in the 42 and 43 bands.

The network will be a Time Division (TD)-LTE network, as opposed to a Frequency Division (FD)-LTE network, which is used by most other UK operators. Nicholas James, CEO at UK Broadband explained that TD makes more sense for the council as it is much more efficient for data services.

“We have chosen to use TD for the deployment because we can get 100% out of the spectrum. If we were to opt for FD, the technology would only be 60% efficient,” said James.

“This is because FD uses paired spectrum, which, for example, if you were using 40Mhz would dedicate 20Mhz to data or voice going up, and 20Mhz to data or voice going down. This is because you don’t want interference in a voice network.

"However, this is a data network. TD uses a single channel, and because seven times more data is downloaded rather than uploaded, you aren’t wasting spectrum in a channel dedicated to uploads. It is dynamically allocated in the one channel.”

The LTE network will be available throughout Swindon and will initially be aimed at allowing councillors to work remotely.

“The council would like their workers to be able to access high speed data wherever they are, which means that they can spend more time out in the community,” said James.

UK Broadband is also investigating whether it could use the network to operate a Wi-Fi service on buses in the area.

Separately from the LTE rollout, UK Broadband is deploying a transmission network that will be going out to 63 service sites via point-to-point and point-to-multipoint microwave links, providing high-speed internet access and replacing legacy technologies like ADSL.

This is going to initially be used by 250 council buildings, schools and businesses to access fixed wireless broadband that is capable of delivering speeds of up to 1Gigabit. James argues that this will give the council “next generation access over wireless” that isn’t on offer at the same price point by providers such as BT.

"This deployment will allow us to deliver next generation services, while making substantial savings," said Hitesh Patel, Swindon Borough Council’s board director for Transformation & Strategic Projects.

“We are a forward-looking local authority, eager to embrace the benefits of innovative new technologies, and believe that this project will provide the infrastructure Swindon needs to continually succeed in both the public and private spheres."


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