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Mobile network operator (MNO) EE is to launch a residential broadband over 4G Long Term Evolution (LTE) service to address the connectivity needs of the most isolated rural homes, following successful trials of a powerful new 4G antenna and router in Cumbria.
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The operator’s new 4GEE Home Router is an enhanced wireless router that uses a 4G mobile signal to provide broadband services of up to 100Mbps, comparable to many fibre-to-the-premises (FTTP) fixed solutions on the market today.
The router is connected by cable to a small 4G antenna fitted to the side of the customer’s property to minimise any signal loss due to exterior walls.
In this way, EE hopes to help around half a million homes gain access to ultrafast broadband connectivity in parts of the country that are still waiting to be addressed by the government-backed Broadband Delivery UK (BDUK) scheme, or where existing services are not good enough due to factors such as distance to the nearest fibre cabinet.
“This new service from EE is going to help households in some of the most isolated areas of Cumbria; areas where residents simply cannot and may never receive fibre connectivity,” said Mal Hilton, chairman of Northern Fells Broadband, which assisted in the initial trials. “It is going to radically change the lives of people in this community.
“With fast and reliable home internet for the very first time, they can now function like everybody else in the UK,” he said.
Local MP Rory Stewart, who has been a vocal advocate for improving connectivity in rural areas, said the service could be “transformative” for the area.
“One of the real challenges is getting fixed fibre into people’s houses because they are so sparsely populated in rural areas. The great thing about EE’s new solution though is that it’s wireless - allowing people to get superfast home broadband via 4G,” said Stewart.
“As the number of new mobile masts continue to roll out, more and more areas of Cumbria will come online. With access to fast broadband, people’s lives really will be transformed.”
Sarah Lee, head of policy at the Countryside Alliance, said: “Fast and reliable internet is just as essential in the countryside as it is in urban areas, but unfortunately it is not currently as widely available.
“This is a major issue for everyday life at home – students rely on a decent internet for research, parents need to bank online and thousands of rural families are missing out on a wealth of on-demand entertainment. We welcome this innovative 4G solution from EE and believe it will have a big impact on some of the most remote communities across the UK,” she said.