EE Doubling 4G Speeds and Capacity

EE has unveiled plans to double the speed and capacity of its 4G network in the UK.

The move would push the average speed for consumers to 20Mbps, with speeds as high as 80Mbps reported during trials of the technology in Cardiff.

In order to increase capacity, EE is doubling the amount of 1800MHz spectrum bandwidth it has dedicated to 4G, to 20MHz.

This improved capability will roll out to ten cities by summer – Birmingham, Bristol, Cardiff, Edinburgh, Glasgow, Leeds, Liverpool, London, Manchester and Sheffield. Existing subscribers in this cities will be automatically switched over with no extra cost or equipment required.

At the London press event unveiling the move, EE CEO Olaf Swantee also announced that the operator is targeting 1m subscribers on its 4G network by the end of 2013. Swantee also touched on its future plans, including trialling carrier aggregation in order to enable LTE-Advanced, and investment in new services for its customers including VoLTE (video and voice calls over LTE).

Alex Spencer writes:

EE launched last September with a clear USP – the only network to offer 4G in the UK – but with the spectrum auction finally done, that period of exclusivity is nearly up.

For that reason, the watchword of this mornings press event was network differentiation. Going forward, EE needs a plan to keep its brand ahead of the competition, and Swantee talked about multiple ways it intends to do this.

One way is device exclusives – EE is the UK partner for the HTC First, the Facebook Phone unveiled last week. Another is its share of spectrum – with 36 per cent of the countrys total 4G spectrum, compared to Vodafones 28 per cent, O2s 15 per cent, and 3s 12 per cent, enough that it could provide every single mobile user in the UK with a steady 4G connection, according to Swantee.

But most of all, network differentiation is the driving force behind the announcement itself. While it might not be the only operator to offer 4G for much longer, EE seems determined to make sure it offers the best connectivity to subscribers. How easy it proves to sell that incremental step to consumers, only time will tell.

The industry responds

CCS Insight senior analyst Kester Mann thinks the key will be how well EE communicates the differences and advantages to consumers.

“The fact that EE has chosen to announce that it is doubling the average speed of its 4G network shows shrewd timing on the operator’s part and capitalising on its pioneering role as the leader in 4G,” says Mann. “It raises the bar for competitors Vodafone and O2, which we expect to launch rival networks in May or June. 

“However, EE needs to be careful how it communicates these improvements to its network to make the benefits crystal clear to customers. This is because users do not always understand the concept of data volumes and speeds. Although it has yet to make any comment on pricing, this gives the operator an opportunity to offer a tiered pricing structure based on speed.”

According to Matthew Howett, telecoms regulation analyst at Ovum, the move is asign that EE is keeping an eye on the future.

“Not content with merely being the UK’s first 4G network, EE is also defining itself as one of the boldest,” says Howett. “This announcement puts them in a very strong position and makes it more difficult for their peers to play catch-up once they launch networks in the coming weeks and months.

“While there may be few apps that need speeds of up to 130Mbps today, the point really is that there almost certainly will be in the future, and that by doubling the amount of spectrum set aside for the 4G deployment today, the network should have the capacity to support an increasing user base in the months to come without impacting on the customer experience.”


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