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O2 switches on 4G network in London

Superfast mobile video and data streaming will be available for trial for nine months

O2 has turned on the first 4G network today to provide superfast mobile broadband to customers in London.

Video and music streaming will be faster on the new network, as 4G will enable a 500MB file to be downloaded in under a minute, compared to more than five minutes on 3G.

The network will be available over the next nine months until June 2012 over 25 4G sites across London, from Hyde Park in central London to The O2 events venue in Greenwich.

Key areas such as Canary Wharf, Kings Cross, Soho, Westminster and South Bank will also have access to the superfast network.

"The work we are doing now will lay the foundations for our commercial 4G network when it launches in the UK," said Ronan Dunne, CEO of Telefnica UK (O2).

More than 1,000 individuals are expected to take part in the trial. Organisations that have signed up to the pilot include retailer John Lewis and the Institution of Engineering and Technology, which will try out the network internally.

The O2 Arena will provide live music video and film streaming demonstrations at the O2 Lounge and O2 Store.

Those taking part in the trial will be provided with Samsung B3730 mobile broadband dongles, which will support speeds of up to 100Mbps, as well as 4G personal wireless hotspots and handsets.

During the trial, O2 will collect network performance data and feedback from customers, which the operator will use to shape its plans for the commercial implementation of the network after Ofcom's 4G spectrum auction. The auction is due to take place in 2012.

The trial network has been deployed using radio and core network equipment from Nokia Siemens Network, as well as microwave radio equipment from Cambridge Broadband Networks, NEC and Nokia Siemens Networks.

Separately, the Financial Times has reported that O2 plans to offer customers more control of their personal data as part of a future trial.

It comes as the UK government announced its midata initiative, which aims to enable companies to release personal data back to consumers.

O2 will offer customers to choose what information - from location information to internet search histories - can be used by the company, and how much of it can be used in activities such as marketing.

Exact details of the plans are not yet available.

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