EE will begin utilising the 800MHz frequencies it acquired in the February 2013 4G spectrum auction by the end of this year, according to Telecoms.com, citing comments made by the cellco’s Director of Network Services and Devices, Tom Bennett.
As previously reported by CommsUpdate, alongside acquiring 2×35MHz in the 2.6GHz band, EE secured a 2×5MHz block of spectrum in the 800MHz band, paying GBP588.876 million (around USD890 million) in total. With local telecoms regulator Ofcom having recently introduced a 90% geographical coverage obligation, EE is expected to utilise its 800MHz holdings to meet this requirement. Commenting on the matter, Mr Bennett said: ‘Our focus from launch was to cover as much of the UK as possible using our 1800MHz spectrum, ensuring a fantastic experience for customers who expect fast downloads … We’re at 93% population coverage now, and more than 75% indoor coverage – 800MHz will help us lift these metrics, complementing our 1800 base layer.’
One other development expected to be linked to the utilisation of its 800MHz spectrum is the commercial deployment of voice-over-LTE (VoLTE) technology. EE has been conducting trials of 4G over 800MHz during the course of this year, covering urban and rural areas, and it is expected that the initial rollout focus will be on rural regions. While EE had previously indicated it was aiming for a ‘summer’ launch of VoLTE, a concrete date has yet to be confirmed for the technology’s introduction, with Mr Bennett noting: ‘We will make VoLTE available to our customers when the reliability of the service is as good as our current voice service. We’re currently maintaining a dropped call rate of 0.4% and CS fall back is performing very well – we’ll only launch a new voice service when it’s on a par with, or better than, what customers are currently using.’