Mobile network EE has
pledged to connect 1,500 rural communities across the UK by the end
of 2017 using its micro-network technology.
In a bid to bring reliable voice services, 3G and 4G to
communities that aren’t currently well served well by mobile
networks, the company is taking a novel approach towards overcoming
the usual need for cables. It is doing this by wirelessly
connecting small mobile antennas to suitable macro sites. The
solution has been designed by Parallel Wireless and will be
deployed fully in early 2015.
The technology has already been tested in the village of
Sebergham in Cumbria. All 129 households and small businesses
within the village can now receive data and voice connectivity
thanks to just three meshed antennas that have been installed
across the town.
“The mobile service here is either non-existent or spasmodic at
best. And the broadband is incredibly slow and very unreliable. In
rural communities like Sebergham, being connected to good, reliable
mobile coverage can make a significant difference to everyday
life,” said Cumbria County Councillor Duncan Fairbairn.
EE claims that this technology “changes the economics of mobile
coverage” due to the fact it doesn’t rely on masts or cables. It is
low cost, low impact and an antenna can be installed on a building
in just a matter of hours.
“With this innovative new technology, we have the capability to
connect every community in the UK, and we estimate that we’ll be
able to bring reliable voice coverage and high speed mobile
broadband to more than 1,500 places for the first time by 2017,”
said EE CEO Olaf Swantee.
A report released in August this year by Ofcom showed EE to offer
the highest success rate when it came to completing calls made on
2G and 3G networks, with Vodafone offering the lowest success rate.
More recently the regulator released another report looking at the
quality of 4G in five major UK cities, but not in rural
All four major operators have agreed to match O2’s promise of
serving 98 percent of the country with 4G, but none are yet to meet
the target. The UK government is currently undertaking a consultation into mobile “not-spots” around the country, in
order to improve rural call coverage (it is not looking at 3G/4G
data currently). One proposal it has been considering is passive
mast sharing, but networks are not in favour of the idea, which
would mean they have to share infrastructure and may lose
competitive advantages. Micro networks, such as those being
developed and deployed by EE, could help avoid this becoming a
According to Swantee, EE has “been working closely with
Government on the long-term ambition to bring voice coverage to
more of the UK, and we believe that this world-first technology
will demonstrate significant advancements against that vision.”