EE has begun rolling out a new service that it believes could solve the problem of rural not-spots for voice and data coverage, as an alternative to the widely despised national roaming plan outlined by the government.
The first switch-on is taking place in Cumbria in the village of Sebergham, where 129 premises will receive voice and data services for the first time.
The services use 'micro network technology' that creates widespread coverage using three small antennas.
This marks a vast improvement on the usual requirements for large mast deployments, which are costly and time-consuming to install and maintain.
There is also no need for planning permission to install the antennas or a fixed-line broadband backhaul connection.
The service is based on technology developed by a company called Parallel Wireless. The image (left) shows the first antenna being installed in Sebergham.
Cumbria county councillor Duncan Fairbairn said that the arrival of the service is a major boost for the area, as mobile and fixed services were "non-existent or spasmodic at best".
"In rural communities like Sebergham, being connected to good, reliable mobile coverage can make a significant difference to everyday life, and we need fast broadband," he added.
EE is clearly confident that the technology will have a positive impact. The company has plans to bring coverage using this method to 1,500 communities by 2017. More deployments are planned for early 2015.
Ovum analyst Matt Howett told V3 that the micro network proposals certainly sound more feasible than national roaming.
"I certainly think that these types of initiative will work in the operator's favour when working with the government as part of coming up with an acceptable plan and timetable to improve things," he said.
"The added benefit of the micro network is that it also extends the reach of mobile data which, of course, the governments proposals do not. That has to be an attractive proposition."
EE has been one of the most vocal critics of the government's plan for national roaming to address rural connectivity, which it says is too expensive and will set back its 4G rollout efforts by up to two years.
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