EE Invests £1.5bn In Faster 4G And Rural Coverage

Steve McCaskill is editor of TechWeekEurope and ChannelBiz. He joined as a reporter in 2011 and covers all areas of IT, with a particular interest in telecommunications, mobile and networking, along with sports technology.

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EE announces major investment programme as it presses ahead with the second phase of its 4G rollout

EE is to invest £1.5 billion in the second phase of its 4G rollout, which will boost speeds and expand the reach of its networks, particularly in rural areas, by 2017.

The operator says its Signalling the Future manifesto will help the UK improve its digital infrastructure and become a world leader in the development and rollout of 5G, which is expected to become a commercial reality as early as 2020.

“Stage one of our Network strategy saw us overhaul UK mobile networks, launching 4G and changing the way people and businesses use their smart devices,” said EE CEO Olaf Swantee.

“This revolution of the mobile landscape has made the UK a leader in global communications once again.”

Network investment

EE Highspeed Herd cow glastonbury fibreglassCurrently, the EE 4G network reaches 80 percent of the UK population, a figure which will rise to 99 percent, while coverage of the geographic area of the UK will reach 90 percent – as per the company’s recent agreement with the government and other mobile operators.

Voice coverage on the UK’s 245,000 miles of roads will rise to 90 percent from 83 percent, while the country’s busiest rail routes will be covered in 4G.

Call quality will be boosted by the rollout of Voice over LTE (VoLTE), while iOS, Android and Windows users will be offered the ability to make calls and texts over Wi-Fi networks, boosting indoor coverage. Double speed 4G of 60Mbps will be rolled out to 90 percent of the population, while 150Mbps LTE-Advanced, or 4G+, will be expand beyond London to 20 of the country’s busiest cities.

Rural boost

Rural areas plagued by poor reception will benefit from a “world first” micro network that will allow 1,500 communities not connected to mobile data or superfast broadband services able to make phone calls and access the mobile web. Additionally, the deployment of low frequency 800MHz spectrum will boost coverage by 1,500 square miles.

Also included in the manifesto are plans to investigate the potential use of ‘air masts’ – small cells tethered to balloons or drones.

“We’ve invested in 4G and taken the UK back to a position of leadership in mobile, and now we’re investing in 5G so that we can define the next step, and keep both us and the UK mobile industry one step ahead,” said EE’s principal network architect Andy Sutton.

5G leadership

“Working closely with academic institutions such as the 5GIC at the University of Surrey and the EU’s Horizon 2020 ‘TWEETHER’ project at Lancaster University on technologies that are truly ground-breaking, EE will continue to change the way people think of what’s possible with mobile. We will continue to evolve new 4G technologies, as they lay the perfect foundation for being a global leader in 5G.”

EE has 7.7 million 4G customers, the most of any UK operator, and the best coverage having launched ten months before O2 and Vodafone’s competing LTE services. It was recently named as best network by independent research firm RootMetrics, although rival Three is closing the gap.

BT is in the process of completing a £12.5 billion takeover of EE, which if completed, would combine the UK’s biggest fibre and LTE networks .

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