EE goes big on micro tech to connect rural areas

News

EE is building a new micro network to wirelessly connect remote areas without a need for broadband or cables, aiming to add 1,500 communities to its network by 2018.

The UK operator is using "meshed" small antennae based on technology designed by Parallel Wireless. EE plans to start deploying the technology next year.

It said the antennae are more efficient than rival products because they do not require a fixed broadband connection to dial into the wider network. Each micro network can connect up to 150 homes and businesses across a 0.5 square mile area by using four antennae. EE said an advantage of the antenna is that it does not require a planning application to install and can be set up within a few hours.

However, the solution does not solve the issue of increasing coverage on a wider scale, with the operator saying it still needs to invest in its traditional macro network.

EE has been trialling the technology in the Cumbrian village of Sebergham, bringing data and voice to 129 households and small businesses by using only three antennae. Duncan Fairbairn, a local county councillor, said the former mobile service was "non-existent or spasmodic at best" and broadband speeds were slow and unreliable.

EE said analysis on which other communities could best benefit from the technology was now underway. CEO Olaf Swantee commented: "With this innovative new technology, we have the capability to connect every community in the UK, and we estimate that we’ll be able to bring reliable voice coverage and high speed mobile broadband to more than 1,500 places for the first time by 2017.

“We’ve been working closely with the Government on the long-term ambition to bring voice coverage to more of the UK, and we believe that this world-first technology will demonstrate significant advancements against that vision.”

British operators have been criticised by the Government for poor coverage in remote areas, with proposals that operators implement "national roaming" receiving a frosty reception from operators and the GSMA.

According to a recent report by Ofcom, EE had the best LTE upload and download speeds in the UK.

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