Everything Everywhere Becomes EE, Launches 4G Network

4G service live by end of the year, supporting a range of devices, and possibly the iPhone 5 after it is announced tomorrow

Everything Everywhere, the merged UK network of T-Mobile and Orange, has launched a 4G service and fibre broadband – and rebranded itself as simply EE.

The EE 4G service will run alongside Orange and T-Mobile, all run by the same organisation, and will seek to serve businesses as well as consumers. The new brand, launched today, will offer people a network “ready for the gigabyte generation”, said Olaf Swantee, CEO of EE.

Everything Everywhere received approval from the regulator, Ofcom, to operate a 4G network on its existing spectrum last month, ahead of the auction of bandwidth which will take place later this year, and to the dismay of rivals O2, and Vodafone. Three, meanwhile, has bought some 4G-capable spectrum from Everything Everywhere in preparation for its own service.

Here comes EE 4G

“This will be the first brand to offer super fast 4G and fibre,” Swamtee (pictured) said, during a launch event at London’s Science Museum today. “We will enable Britain to become a more modern, truly digital country, better connected with itself and others.

“Networks built last century are too slow to work in this digital age. We are going to change that.”

EE will rebrand all its 700 T-Mobile and Orange shops, a move which has prompted speculation that the company will eventually merge its whole business under the EE brand.

A range of devices able to support EE’s 4G network were on show, including ones from HTC and Samsung. EE will also be pushing Nokia devices (including the Nokia Lumia 920 Windows phone 8  device launched last week) at customers. It is also expected that the iPhone 5, due to be launched tomorrow, will be able to access the new 4G network.

Users will soon start to see Orange and T-Mobile connectivity notifications replaced by messages from EE, the company said. The company has launched 4G in London, Cardiff, Birmingham and Bristol today, but customers cannot access it yet. Engineers will be testing the network, and customers will be allowed on “before the end of the year”.

A total of 16 cities will be able to access EE’s 4G network by Christmas, including Sheffield, Leeds and Newcastle. This would reach a potential 20 million people by Christmas, EE promised, although London will be the only city to have total coverage, at that point.

EE said it would expand this quickly through 2013, covering  98 percent of the UK’s population by 2014. Supported 4G devices include the Samsung Galaxy SIII LTE, Nokia Lumia 920, Nokia Lumia 820, HTC One XL and Huawei Ascend P1 LTE.

Boris Johnson, mayor of London, was on hand to welcome the announcement. “This will add greatly to the advantages of London,” Johnson said. “Information will now spurt out of these gizmos in unbelievable quantities.”

As for the fibre broadband, 11 million will be able to access it by the end of the year, Swantee claimed. It will run over BT’s infrastructure, EE told TechWeekEurope, and will reach speeds of up to 80Mbps.

That’s not as fast as some of the fibre-to-the-premises (FTTP) products that are coming out of BT, which can hit up to 300Mbps.

No price plans for EE were announced, but the operator confirmed all would be revealed imminently.

As for Orange and T-Mobile’s respective futures, TechWeekEurope understands that EE will try to bring in mobile business customers under one EE umbrella, but otherwise there are no plans to kill the two famous brands. All will remain separate, but EE will be the premium brand.

To see how 4G compares with 3G, head to our comparison here. To see the line-up of phones, head to our hands-on look here.

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