EE expands emergency services network to 500th site

BT-owned UK operator announces milestone for emergency services network as it accelerates its strategy towards bringing 4G to more places across the country, particularly rural communities

As it continues to invest in providing dedicated 4G voice and data coverage for more than 300,000 emergency service users across the UK, EE has completed the build-out of the 500th new site for its emergency services network (ESN) in Glencoe, Scotland.

Once activated, the new site – which complements the upgrading of about 19,000 of EE’s existing sites to 4G ready for ESN – will deliver 4G connectivity to more than 65km2 of the Scottish Highlands on an 800MHz signal, providing stronger mobile coverage in very rural areas around a popular tourist destination. This, it hopes, will ensure that emergency workers have access to reliable technology to serve local communities and visiting tourists.

In addition to the site at Glencoe, EE has continued to roll out the network for emergency services in other hard-to-reach areas across the UK, building more than 30 sites in June and July alone. This includes five new sites in England across the Lake District and the South Downs National Parks, as well as Devon and Cornwall.

A further five sites in Wales, including Pembrokeshire, and 18 more sites in remote locations across Scotland, such as the Cairngorm and Lock Lomond national parks, have also been completed.

Quoting data from UK regulator Ofcom, EE says its network already covers 82% of UK’s rural geography, and 84% of the UK landmass – more than any other network.

The company is now working to build over 100 more new ESN sites in rural areas in the coming months, in advance of the UK’s Shared Rural Network (SRN) coming on stream.

The SRN, first announced in October 2019, is designed to wipe “not-spots” from the map, providing what the government claims will be “high-quality” 4G coverage to 95% of the UK by 2025. This followed years of complaints by mobile consumers and businesses that the major political parties had consistently failed rural businesses by lacking a credible solution to improve mobile 4G and 5G coverage.

In addition to site builds and upgrades, EE has complemented the mast sites with a fleet of 4G response vehicles and cells, equipped with satellite back-haul technology in order, it says, to reassure emergency services workers that they will be equipped with the mobile coverage and capacity they need, even in the remotest areas.

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“With ESN, we are focused on building the coverage where the emergency services need it most to ensure they can best protect and serve society,” said Richard Harrap, managing director of ESN at EE. “Often this is in rural areas. Our new site builds and upgrades to existing 4G masts for the ESN have also meant further expanded coverage in rural areas, and improved coverage in hard-to-reach areas and along key roads such as our 500th site in Glencoe.

“We’re also welcoming other operators to come in and share these sites to reduce the amount of infrastructure on the ground and increase coverage for everyone. This is in advance of the UK government’s Shared Rural Network, which will also help us to reach even more not-spots to ensure that everyone benefits from improved coverage and choice.”

Lords minister Baroness Williams said she believes the ESN will provide an innovative, mobile-based communications system to transform the response of the emergency services. “Building increased coverage in rural locations throughout the UK is an essential part of the programme, and this milestone means we are ever closer to ensuring that our dedicated police, fire and ambulance crews can communicate across, and access, some of the most hard-to-reach areas,” she said.

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