EE criticises government for being fixed on fixed-line broadband

As EE launches 4G Wi-Fi services across rural Cumbria, the operator’s CEO criticises the government for focusing too heavily on fixed broadband infrastructure

The CEO of EE today hit out at the government for being too focused on fixed-line broadband when it came to solving rural connectivity issues in the UK.

After 18 months of trials, the operator confirmed it was rolling out 4G Wi-Fi services in Cumbria, offering 2,000 residents and businesses superfast connections in the Northern Fells using EE's mobile network.

However, Olaf Swantee also used the launch to make a wider point on how government policy has been too obsessed with fixed infrastructure, where different technologies could be used to serve the public at a fraction of the cost.

“We know that mobile technology is the answer to many of the country’s connectivity issues, but the government has for years been fixed on fixed-line broadband and, frankly, fixed-line connections are not delivering quickly enough,” he said.

“We want to see some forward-thinking from the government and some investment in wireless technology, so rural Britain can enjoy the experience Cumbria is set to receive.”

Swantee slated the 30-year-old Electronic Communications Code legislation, which rules the mobile market, calling for “significant modernisation” so EE could immediately access the land it rents to fix any coverage problems, keep rent prices down when it upgraded technology and find more affordable ways of rolling out its network in rural areas.  

“These are hugely important and necessary changes if, as a nation, we are serious about rural communities benefiting from connectivity [and] these are essential if we want to make the most of the mobile industry’s investment in 4G,” he said.

Swantee also condemned Ofcom for its recent proposals to raise the price of annual license fees mobile operators pay for spectrum by as much as 330%.

“Under the proposals, EE will be asked to pay an additional £82m annually to run the network – that is the equivalent of the investment required to switch on all of Wales, or over 80 areas like the Northern Fells – every single year,” he said.

“We’ve already said that if the current proposal progresses, we will be forced to re-evaluate our 98% coverage target for the end of next year, and sparsely populated rural areas are as well all know at risk the most. So we ask that Ofcom and the Government show some sense and support policies that encourage investment, both on annual licence fees, and reform of the ECC.”

Swantee concluded: “We want to work with Britain to deliver it the network it deserves, because we are a long way along the road, and we want to take the country forward, not put the brakes on.”

Read more on Wireless networking