EXCLUSIVE: EE to deploy 800 MHz spectrum by end of 2015

Speaking exclusively to Tom Bennett of EE has revealed the operator is set to finally make use of the 800 MHz spectrum it acquired in the 2013 4G spectrum auctions.

EE only grabbed 2×5 MHz of paired 800 MHz spectrum in the auction, as did Three, while Vodafone and O2 UK got twice as much. The latter two have made that spectrum the foundation of their 4G offering while EE has chosen to maintain its focus on the 1800 MHz spectrum it has been using from the start.

While 1800 MHz has done a good job for EE in terms of core coverage and performance, 800 MHz offers advantage in terms of range and building penetration. EE has got 93% of the UK population covered by its network, but since the Prime Minister started having problems checking the sports results on his holidays Ofcom has introduced a 90% geographical coverage obligation too, and this is where the 800 MHz spectrum will be most useful for EE.

“Our focus from launch was to cover as much of the UK as possible using our 1800 MHz spectrum, ensuring a fantastic experience for customers who expect fast downloads,” said Bennett. “We’re at 93% population coverage now, and more than 75% indoor coverage – 800 MHz will help us lift these metrics, complementing our 1800 base layer.”

The characteristics of this spectrum also provide a good opportunity for EE to plug smaller gaps in its coverage. Devices are programmed to default to the highest frequency available, meaning they’ll default to 800 MHz if there’s no 1800 or 2600 coverage, thus reducing the probability of EE’s relatively thin 800 resource becoming congested.

The other big deal for EE about this 800 MHz announcement is it coincidence with the imminent launch of VoLTE, resulting in what EE hopes will be a strong proposition to consumers, especially in rural areas.

“Trials of 4G on 800 MHz have been ongoing all year, covering urban and rural areas,” said Bennett. “We’ll start switching it on – with an initial focus on rural – later this year. We’ll implement VoLTE on this spectrum as well, which will have the benefit of bringing both voice and data to parts of the UK that have never previously had coverage.

“Lower frequency spectrum complements the spectrum that we’ve deployed so far, boosting indoor coverage and helping us make strides towards covering 90% of the UK geography. When the 800MHz rollout begins and VoLTE is supported, customers with the latest handsets will see coverage in new places for the first time and they’ll get both 4G data and 4G calls.”

Three UK has already said it is aiming to deploy its 800 MHz spectrum by the end of this year, together with VoLTE, so EE is clearly trying to steal a march on Three with these announcements, as well as joining the broader VoLTE race. Expect EE’s competitors make a few similar announcements of their own in the coming weeks.


Fotis Karonis, CTO, EE will be providing the opening presentation at the LTE Voice Summit on September 28-30 in London


One comment

  1. Avatar Steve tarry 06/11/2015 @ 11:57 am

    Very interested to hear about the lower frequency service,coming from a rural area,with four g dropping in and out constantly. When will this take place and how will they do it? Eg has every transmitter got to be altered or is this done remotely. Thanks

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