EE to invest £1.5bn in 4G network expansion to rural areas

While BT's bid to acquire EE continues, the mobile operator has reinforced its commitment to ongoing investment in the UK's 4G network infrastructure.

In a strategy document, entitled Signalling the Future, the company sets out plans to invest 1.5 billion between now and 2017 in ensuring the UK's appetite for network capacity is met.

As part of this, EE said it's set itself a target to deliver 4G connectivity to more than 99 per cent of the population and across 90 per cent of the UK by 2017.

In the report, Olaf Swantee, EE's CEO, said the aim is to ensure every UK home can benefit from mobile coverage, with particular emphasis on those living in rural areas.

"Alongside every home, we will continue our focus on roads and rails and parts of the country that people spend their daily lives.

"Around 500m of the total spend will be focused on improving rural coverage in the hard-to-reach parts of the UK that are asking for our help and to which we've not previously been able to deliver the mobile experience they deserve," he said.

In part, this investment is being spurred on by the increasing use of smart devices within UK households, he added, as well as EE's commitment to ensuring the country is positioned at the "forefront of the new mobile era."

To help boost mobile connectivity in rural areas, EE is proposing the use of Micro Network technology that, it claims, will make it possible for residents of 1,500 communities without access to reliable mobile service to make calls and use mobile data services.

It's also planning to deploy a low frequency 800 MHz spectrum to improve access to mobile services to rural areas covering 1,500 square miles.

Andy Sutton, principal network architect at EE, said this work will pave the way for UK-wide adotion of 5G technologies later down the line.

"We've invested in 4G and taken the UK back to a position of leadership in mobile, and now we're investing in 5G so that we can define the next step, and keep both us and the UK mobile industry one step ahead.

"Working closely with academic institutions such as the 5GIC at the University of Surrey and the EU's Horizon 2020 TWEETHER' project at Lancaster University on technologies that are truly ground-breaking, EE will continue to change the way people think of what's possible with mobile.

"We will continue to evolve new 4G technologies, as they lay the perfect foundation for being a global leader in 5G," Sutton added.

Caroline Donnelly is the news and analysis editor of IT Pro and its sister site Cloud Pro, and covers general news, as well as the storage, security, public sector, cloud and Microsoft beats. Caroline has been a member of the IT Pro/Cloud Pro team since March 2012, and has previously worked as a reporter at several B2B publications, including UK channel magazine CRN, and as features writer for local weekly newspaper, The Slough and Windsor Observer. She studied Medical Biochemistry at the University of Leicester and completed a Postgraduate Diploma in Magazine Journalism at PMA Training in 2006.