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EE repurposes 2G spectrum to support expanded 4G mobile service

The operator will re-farm a tranche of spectrum formerly used for 2G services to boost capacity and speed on its 4G network

Mobile network operator EE has kicked off a network upgrade that will see 10MHz of 1,800MHz spectrum previously used to support 2G voice connectivity converted to support 4G mobile broadband, and the introduction of new technology to support enhanced network capacity and speed.

The operator plans to upgrade 600 sites around the UK to support the next generation of Cat 12 and 16 modem-equipped smartphones – which will hit the UK market in 2018.

At the same time, it is investing in 4x4 multiple input multiple output (MIMO) antennae and 256 Quadrature Amplitude Modulation (QAM) technology designed to make the available spectrum more efficient.

It is also expanding its 4G+ network service – capable of delivering downloads speeds of 400Mbps – to more than 1,000 sites, while 900 sites will see their upload speed doubled from 50Mbps to 100Mbps.

“We keep investing in our network and using our technology leadership to make sure customers are getting the most out of the latest smartphones,” said CEO Marc Allera.

“Customers need to be on 4G, getting the best out of their new devices with the highest quality phone calls and the fastest mobile data speeds. We’re converting 2G into 4G because that’s what our customers need,” he added.

EE already claims to have the largest 4G+ footprint for the current generation of Cat 9 modems, which are used in the Samsung Galaxy S7 and S8, and iPhone 7 respectively, and frequently tops independent network performance rankings – although its rivals are fast catching it up, according to the most recent data from RootMetrics.

The operator, which has been part of the BT Group for the past 18 months, now covers over 85% of the UK’s total landmass with a 4G service, and RootMetrics data suggest that customers spend 90% of their time connected to a 4G service.

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