The UK mobile network EE said this week it will increase coverage over the UK by expanding 4G to more than 95 percent of the country by 2020.
In 2015, EE signed a deal with the government to replace its Airwave network and also said it would eliminate zones of no coverage for consumers at the same time.
Today, EE’s 4G services cover roughly 60 percent of the country, although there is still a lot of work to be done to cover rural areas especially as it will be used by police communications and emergency services. The Home Office is set to spend hundreds of millions to support the replacement network’s rollout.
Chief Executive of EE, Marc Allera said the work would “go further than any operator has ever gone, with the aim of covering the whole of the UK with 4G”, adding that “There’s no doubt being part of a large group gives us scale and long term surety over our investments”.
Also revealed in the announcement was the firm’s plan to return all of its call centres to the UK by the end of 2016, with the aiming of improving service. Likely due to the fact that EE hasn’t done well in Ofcom’s ratings amongst UK operators – currently languishing in third place in terms of customer complaints. All the call centres based in India will be closed, with hundreds of new jobs set to be created in the UK and Ireland once the transition has been made.
The UK’s other operators including Three, Vodafone and O2 have consistently said that rolling out more 4G is hampered by rules restricting where they can build out – such as the placement of mobile masts. EE however says that the plans will go ahead regardless of changes to the way that masts and other infrastructure can be erected. Allera said that “reform that gets us access to sites and stops landlords paying ransom rents would certainly help”.
If it goes ahead as planned, EE could be the sole provider of 4G services in many rural areas, of which only 4 percent is covered by high-speed mobile at the moment.
As far as the government is concerned, the UK’s operators need to reach 90 percent geographical coverage by the end of next year, but EE’s plans go much farther – which can only be a good thing.