UK's EE calls for LTE-A devices

Caroline Gabriel/Wireless Watch
16 Apr 2013

The UK may have been an LTE laggard so far, but its first major 4G operator, market leader EE, is already looking towards LTE-Advanced.

In the short term, the company – a joint venture between Deutsche Telekom and France Telecom – plans to double the speed and capacity of its new network, but it also wants to implement some of the features of LTE-Advanced (Release 10) once devices become available.

The largest UK cellco says its upgraded LTE network will increase top real world speeds to over 80 Mbps (it can do 130 Mbps in the lab), and double average speeds to more than 20 Mbps. EE will achieve this by doubling the spectrum capacity it is using, from 10 MHz to 20 MHz, as it continues to refarm its 1.8-GHz 2G frequencies.

Using this band enabled it to jump into the 4G market before rivals Vodafone, O2 and 3UK, which do not hold 1.8-GHz airwaves and only recently acquired LTE-suitable spectrum in the 2.6-GHz/800-MHz auction.

The new high speed EE services will initially be rolled out in 10 UK cities (Birmingham, Bristol, Cardiff, Edinburgh, Glasgow, Leeds, Liverpool, London, Manchester and Sheffield), having been trialled in Welsh capital Cardiff, and then will be expanded to cover the whole 4G footprint.

The upgrades will be available automatically to existing customers at no extra charge. EE, which was criticized for taking advantage of its market headstart by imposing high data charges, has now restructured its tariffs to address imminent competition and to hit its target of reaching one million 4G customers by the end of this year, which would be about 8% of its postpaid base, and to cover 98% of the population by the end of 2014. CEO Olaf Swantee said has taken the average LTE operator 24 months to reach 10% of their contract user base.

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