UK operator Everything Everywhere announced a €1.8 billion plus network investment boost today and revealed new LTE vendor agreements could be the result.
The company, which is the umbrella brand for mobile brands Orange and T-Mobile in the UK, is planning to inject the €1.8 billion over three years starting in January. It said the figure represented a double-digit increase in its 2012 network investment compared to this year.
In a briefing with European Communications, an EE spokesperson refused to break down how the €1.8 billion would be divided up; however, it is clear 4G will be a major focus.
In a statement supporting the release, EE CEO Olaf Swantee said the company was committed to rolling out 4G “as soon as possible to support growing data use, connect parts of the country with little or no mobile broadband, and drive economic growth.”
The spokesperson revealed Huawei and NSN were EE’s two main vendor partners but that it will be considering additional agreements as it aims to maintain “the most reliable, biggest and best” network in the country.
While rival vendors pick up their ears, EE is trying to gauge when, precisely, the UK’s 4G auction will take place. The spokesperson said it was “definitely expecting” the auction to go ahead in 2012, but was no clearer than anyone else as to when it would be.
“We want it to happen as soon as possible,” added the spokesperson.
Ofcom originally said it would take place in Q1 2012 but has since made noises that it will be more likely to happen in Q3 or Q4.
In the meantime, EE is four months into a 4G trial in Cornwall in the south west of England. Launched in partnership with BT Wholesale, the trial has “delivered satisfaction rates of over 90 percent and demonstrated that broadband can be cost-effectively delivered to rural areas,” according to EE. The company will undertake further regional trials, confirmed the spokesperson.
The next question is how quickly consumers will get to use 4G once spectrum in allocated.
Back in October, the ITU’s Radiocommunication Bureau director revealed that the time it took for spectrum bands to become available to end users was shortening.
According to François Rancy, since 1992 it has taken on average 10 years from the time spectrum is allocated to the time it was actually used. However, he said the 807 band, released in 2007 is already being used.
This was news to the EE spokesperson, who has promised to investigate further what its expectations are in this regard.
Clearly, despite this welcome investment and the promise that it devoting “huge resources” to delivering a world-class 4G network, EE has a long way to go.
It is still in the midst of integrating the Orange and T-Mobile networks or the “Big Switch On” as it is branding it. It has completely revamped its management team over the past few months and has had to refinance its debt in order to pay back Deutsche Telekom and France Telecom.
With consumers some way off from seeing a benefit, it seems the biggest winners in the short term could be a vendor or two.