Enhanced 4G boosts headline speeds to 80Mbps and doubles current average speeds to 20Mbps, for new and existing subscribers
UK 4G network, EE, is doubling the speed and capacity of its 4G network in a bid to keep its head start on rivals who are due to launch their own 4G services in coming weeks.
The arrival of double-speed 4G that enables lab speeds of 130Mbps, will boost headline 4G speeds to 80Mbps plus, and double the average speeds for 4GEE customers to more than 20Mbps.
Just six months since it launched the UK's fiorst 4G network, EE is doubling the amount of 1800MHz spectrum bandwidth dedicated to 4G, from 10MHz to 20MHz. This will give 4GEE customers increased capacity, and access to some of the fastest mobile speeds in the world, reinstating the UK as a leader in mobile and digital communications.
Based on internal 4G usage data, EE forecasts that data traffic will grow by as much as 750% by 2016, and will increase by 50% by the end of 2013. It therefore deems increased speeds and capacity vital for mobile operators to continue to deliver a consistently high quality experience.
The turbocharged 4G capability will roll out to ten existing 4G cities by summer; Birmingham, Bristol, Cardiff, Edinburgh, Glasgow, Leeds, Liverpool, London, Manchester and Sheffield. Trials of the new technology in Cardiff are have already seen headline speeds reach 80Mbps plus. Once switched on, the improvements will be automatically available in those cities within existing plans to new and current 4GEE customers on all 4G smartphones, tablets and dongles, EE claimed.
Mark Newman, chief research officer at Informa Telecoms &Media, commented: 'By rapidly expanding both the coverage and capacity of its network, EE has taken the necessary steps to maintain and extend its advantage in the UK 4G market and, importantly, to leapfrog itself into a leading position in the European LTE market. EE's strategy to focus on network investment as a point of differentiation is helping to build a world-class, high-quality digital infrastructure that will prove as vital to future economic growth as investment in the roads and railways.'
While Matthew Howett, telecoms regulation analyst at Ovum, commented: 'Not content with merely being the UK's first 4G network, EE is also defining itself as one of the boldest. By doubling the amount of spectrum it is using for 4G, it will effectively double the speed and capacity of the network. Given EE's large and contiguous holding of spectrum at 1800MHz, this 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 applications 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,' added Howett. 'As Ovum's recent research shows, the 1800MHz band has rapidly become one of the most important bands for LTE. One of the key benefits is the CAPEX savings enabled by refarming existing 1800MHz spectrum, which allows operators like EE to utilize existing sites and masts and make such rollouts possible.'
Olaf Swantee, CEO at EE, said: 'We are ensuring that the UK remains at the forefront of the digital revolution. Having already pioneered 4G here, we're now advancing the country's infrastructure again with an even faster, even higher-capacity network, and at no extra cost to our customers.
'Since we launched 4G, we've seen a huge shift in the way people are using mobile. Video already accounts for 24% of all traffic on our 4G network – that's significantly more than on 3G. Maps, mobile commerce, sat-nav tools and cloud services are all seeing a similar rise. Mobile users in the UK have a huge appetite for data-rich applications, and this will only grow as people become more familiar with and reliant upon next generation technologies and services. Our double speed 4G network will provide developers with the quality and speeds needed to develop the next wave of killer 4G apps. Whatever innovations they come up with, we're ready,' Swantee added.
EE has set a target of reaching one million 4G customers by the end of 2013 and will provide updates on its progress towards this in upcoming announcements. Among 4G network rollouts around the world, converting 10% of pay monthly base after 24 months is considered to indicate a successful deployment. More than one million 4GEE customers would represent around 8% of the EE pay monthly user base, upgraded or acquired from rival networks within just 14 months.
Howett added: 'Keen to dampen rumours of weak takeup, EE has also confidently targeted one million 4G users by the end of the year. With six months already under their belt, but eight months still to go, they are perhaps just under half the way there, a number that is probably more than most had expected at this stage. We have said previously that a first mover has something of an uphill struggle trying to convince consumers to go out there and buy into something they have no experience of using. 'The best bet for EE, along with its competitors, is to state the advantages of their networks in ways that consumers understand and can relate to – for instance how long it will take to upload a photo, download an HD movie, access storage in the cloud, or just how well it will steam the BBC iPlayer during peak times,' noted Howett.
Howett concluded: 'Not so long ago, it looked like Britain would be condemned to the slow lane for years to come. However in just six months, over half the UK has now been covered with 4G LTE with a rollout that's continuing at pace. While EE certainly hasn't taken its head start for granted, the real test will come once Vodafone, O2 and Three launch 4G LTE networks of their own after winning spectrum in the recent 4G auction, a moment that is now just a matter of weeks away.'
Building on EE's existing 1800MHz (2G and 4G) and 2.1GHz (3G) spectrum, the successful acquisition of highly complementary 800MHz and 2.6GHz spectrum in the auction provides the company with the UK's widest and most capable spectrum portfolio, allowing the boost of superfast data services and coverage, indoors and outdoors, in cities and the countryside. The newly acquired spectrum will support the existing 1800MHz network to further increase capacity and reach, and ensure consumer and business customers always have the best 4G experience in the UK.
Before the end of 2013, EE is aiming to trial carrier aggregation, a fundamental feature of LTE-Advanced, combining spectrum from different bands to further boost performance, speed and capacity. Through this innovative use of spectrum assets, EE will be able to deliver more 4G bandwidth than any other operator in the UK is able to, now and in the future.
EE is also making further investments and improvements to its core network to enable a wide range of new services for EE customers. These services will include voice over Wi-Fi (VoWi-Fi), as well as enabling the delivery of both video and voice calls over 4G/LTE (VoLTE).