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EE races ahead with 4G rollout

13 Dec 2012
Mobile spectrum antenna against sunset

Mobile operator Everything Everywhere (EE) has confirmed that it will extend the roll out of its 4G service to 17 more towns and cities in the UK by March 2013, taking the total to 35.

The move comes as other operators prepare to start bidding in the Ofcom auctions, which are expected to raise around £3.5bn for the government coffers.

EE has been able to to get a head start on its rivals by re-purposing some of its 3G spectrum allocation, and has wasted no time in getting services to the market.

It also claims to be ahead of schedule, with 4G set to be available in 18 towns and cities by the end of this year. EE had previously promised to launch in 16.

“We are improving the network every day, delivering superfast mobile to more and more people right across metropolitan areas, whether they’re using their devices outdoors or in their homes and offices,” said Olaf Swanson, chief executive of EE.

“This has struck a chord with businesses in particular, with great demand being seen.”

While rivals are having to wait for the 4G auctions to begin, they've been quick to pour cold water on EE's plans, arguing that the 1800MHz frequency band EE is using will not penetrate inside buildings as well as the blocks up for auction.

But EE claims its live trials prove otherwise. Tests carried out in Manchester city centre showing some degradation in download speeds indoors, but they nevertheless outpaced current 3G services.

EE claimed it recorded an average 4G download speed of 17Mbits/s, with indoor speeds of 9.7Mbits/s.

In the first quarter of 2013, EE's 4G service will be switched on in: Bradford; Chelmsford; Coventry; Doncaster; Dudley; Leicester; Luton; Newport; Reading; Rotherham; St Albans; Sunderland; Sutton Coldfield; Walsall; Watford; West Bromwich; and Wolverhampton.

Alongside its 4G deployment, EE has committed to updating its mobile backhaul infrastructure, introducing Gigabit Ethernet capacity to support its superfast mobile network.

While the initial 4G deployment had been widely welcome, the real challenge for EE would come as more customers began using its service, warned Thomas Wehmeier, principal analyst at market watcher Informa Telecoms. 

"To ensure a consistent experience as more customers join the network, EE has to take this step to invest in additional capacity," he said.

"Importantly, this move will also help to improve coverage indoors so that customers can enjoy 4G services not just outside on the move, but when they’re inside the home or office."

EE, which is a joint venture between the Orange and T-Mobile networks, also said it is upgrading its 3G network and will have dual-carrier HSPA live on 40 percent of the its network by the year's end.

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