UK communications firm Everything Everywhere, which owns and operates the British Orange and T-Mobile brands, has announced that it is to invest £1.5bn ($2.4bn) in a three-year network evolution programme. The project will accelerate the integration of the Orange and T-Mobile networks and ready them for LTE through the “implementation of 4G-ready technology following successful trials,” the firm said.
The plan represents double digit growth in network investment from 2011 to 2012. T-Mobile’s 3G network has already been merged with that of UK competitor Three, as part of the two firms’ network management joint venture, MBNL. Orange and T-Mobile have allowed each others’ users to roam across both 3G networks since October, with 2G roaming in place since 2010.
CEO Olaf Swantee said: “With mobile data increasing 250 per cent over the past two years, we are making these investments so we can deliver on our ambition to provide the UK’s most reliable, biggest and best mobile data network. We believe that the UK requires a 21st century infrastructure and are committed to rolling out 4G as soon as possible to support growing data use, connect parts of the country with little or no mobile broadband, and drive economic growth.”
The firm said that sometime during the first half of 2012, customer devices will automatically select the strongest available signal from the two networks.
An LTE trial conducted in partnership with BT launched in September this year. Everything Everywhere said that the trial, which focused on the delivery of mobile broadband services to rural areas, has delivered “satisfaction rates of over 90 per cent.”
The UK is lagging comparable European markets in LTE deployment. While regulator Ofcom has said that it expects LTE availability before 2013, it is expected that nationwide coverage will not be available until 2017.