Mobile network provider EE has completed a major project to bring 4G broadband to almost 2,600 rural towns and villages across the UK, doubling the footprint of its double-speed network and bringing service quality comparable to that obtained in major cities to three million more people.
The project covered 2,588 communities with populations below 10,000, the smallest being Silverburn in Scotland, with just over 60 residents.
EE claims in some of these communities, businesses and residents are now able to obtain download speeds that were easily faster than those reached under the auspices of the controversial BDUK programme, raising the possibility of 4G broadband becoming a viable replacement for fixed-line services in some cases.
Speaking at an event outlining EE’s plans for 4G provision in the UK, EE CEO Olaf Swantee said the market was reaching a “tipping point” and claimed that, since the beginning of May 2014, the number of new 4G contracts being signed by the network has grown larger the number of new 3G contracts signed for the first time ever.
“We fundamentally believe we need to keep driving access to 4G and make sure we never go back to an age where applications are buffering,” said Swantee.
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“B2B also has an appetite for 4G,” he continued, saying that EE now has more than 5,000 corporate customers using 4G.
“As employees are increasingly mobile there is increasing demand to connect employees to business applications and use mobile to access customers, particularly in areas like retail,” explained Swantee.
EE also announced plans to extend its double speed 4G network to 40 more towns and cities by the end of the year; a new focus on 4G coverage in areas of high usage such as airports, railway stations and even motorways and busier A-roads; and the launch of a number of new 4G broadband devices and plans.
Designed for passenger use only, EE's new Wi-Fi devices include the Buzzard, a superfast in-car device that connects up to 10 devices to the internet, powered through a car’s cigarette lighter; the Kite, a premium, pocket-sized 4G Wi-Fi unit for business professionals; the Osprey, a ruggedized 4G Wi-Fi unit for younger consumers; and the Eagle, a Huawei-based Android tablet that EE claims will offer competitive features to the iPad Mini at a substantially cheaper cost to users.