The European Commission is to spend €18m on research into the future mobile communications technology that promises speeds a thousand times faster than today's handsets.
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The decision to invest in the technology builds on the commission's original and subsequent support 25 years ago for GSM (Groupe Systeme Mobile). GSM has become the de facto standard for mobile telephony, with 80% of mobile handsets using it to make and receive calls.
The money will be available from 1 January 2010. The aim is to develop technology that will offer mobile internet speeds up to a hundred times faster than current 3G networks.
Communications commissioner Viviane Reding said: "LTE technologies will turn mobile phones into powerful mobile computers. Millions of new users will get ultra high-speed internet access on their portable devices, wherever they are. This will create tremendous opportunities and plenty of space for growing the digital economy."
Some mobile network operators will put the LTE standard into commercial operation next year. It provides mobile internet speeds of up to 100Mbps, ten times faster than 3G mobile networks.
Mobile operators and manufacturers such as Orange, TeliaSonera, T-Mobile, AT&T, NTT-DoCoMo, Verizon, Alcatel-Lucent, Ericsson, Huawei and Nokia Siemens Networks have already committed to using the LTE standard. It is expected to be available commercially in Sweden and Norway in the first half of 2010.
By 2013, operators worldwide are expected to invest nearly €6bn in LTE equipment, according to market analysts.
In September, the commission will start to negotiate the details with project consortia. The new projects are expected to start in January 2010.
LTE Advanced will deliver mobile broadband speeds up to 1Gbps, allowing mobile users access to high quality TV or video on demand.
LTE will use the frequencies freed by the switchover from analogue to digital TV.
Signals will travel further than with current GSM technology and reduce the number of antenna sites needed to achieve the same network coverage. It is hooped this will preserve Europe's landscapes and reduce energy consumption.
LTE could also bring mobile broadband to less populated regions and help narrow the digital divide between rural and urban areas. In late 2008, 23% of people in rural areas of the EU still could not get a fixed-wire broadband internet connection.
Between 2007 and 2013, the EU plans to invest over €700m into research on future networks. Half of this budget will be allocated to wireless technologies that help develop 4G and beyond 4G networks.
Image: Martin Lee/Rex Features