Everything Everywhere (EE), the joint venture between British mobile network operators Orange UK and T-Mobile UK, has outlined its network development plan, revealing that it expects to spend more than GBP1.5 billion (USD2.4 billion) over the next three years, on the integration of the mobile infrastructure of both cellcos, the upgrading of existing network technology, and preparation for the rollout of 4G services.
Having enabled free roaming between the Orange and T-Mobile networks back in October 2010, a year later EE announced that it was implementing 3G network sharing between the two operators. With the company now claiming to be in the final stages of what it has termed ‘the big switch on’, EE has claimed that within weeks its customers will have access to the ‘biggest 3G network and widest 3G coverage in the UK’. Since opening access between the two networks the operator claims that more than 22 million customers have benefited from network sharing, citing a 20% reduction in dropped calls in localised areas. Looking forward, EE says that in the first half of 2012 it intends to further improve the cross-network signal sharing by enabling customer devices to automatically select the stronger signal from either network. Further, a phased programme aimed at streamlining network sites will be launched, with a view to reducing EE’s carbon footprint and contributing towards the GBP3.5 billion synergy savings target it aims to achieve by 2014.
EE also notes that it is specifically investing in equipment that will be readily upgradeable to 4G once the government makes suitable spectrum for such services available. In addition, the operator has stated that it is making ‘significant investments’ in its mobile backhaul. Such expenditure comes after trials of Long Term Evolution (LTE) technology, carried out earlier this year in partnership with British fixed line incumbent BT. As previously reported by CommsUpdate, in May 2011 EE and BT were reported to be planning to launch trials of the 4G technology in September 2011 in the St Newlyn East area of Cornwall, with the tests expected to run for a three-month period; the aim of the project was to ascertain the capabilities of LTE in the 800MHz band for customers in rural regions that currently can either only get slow fixed line broadband or cannot be connected at all via traditional fixed line technologies due to cost or geographical difficulties. With the trial now well underway EE claims that the pilot scheme has ‘demonstrated that broadband can be cost-effectively delivered to rural areas over LTE, helping the government to connect the last 10% of the population who currently have no mobile or fixed broadband access’. Commenting on the development, Fotis Karonis, chief technical officer for Everything Everywhere, said: ‘Everything Everywhere is committed to building a world-class 4G network for Britain. We are devoting huge resources – including our 15,000 workforce and significant investments in technology – and already trialling, learning and laying the ground-work so that we are prepared to introduce 4G services as soon as it’s feasible.’