EE trials hybrid broadband, aims to improve Time on 4G

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EE is testing a "hybrid broadband" technology combining a fixed line network with LTE so cellular can take over in the event of a fault or poor performance.

The UK operator said it wanted to boost quality in areas with traditionally slow broadband speeds or during peak times. Customers will be provided with a brand new combined LTE and fixed line modem or two separate boxes.

The aim is to bring it to market in the first half of next year. Customers will be invited to trial the service ahead of its formal launch.

The announcement was made as part of a wide-ranging overhaul of BT's consumer division, which included changes to price plans, a vow to bring all customer service support into the UK by 2020, new BT stores and forthcoming access to the likes of Prime Video and NowTV.

The operator also set a new target for its Time on 4G plan. It aims for 99 percent of its customers using VoLTE to be on 4G by 2020, up from its current level of around 97 percent. For customers without VoLTE, the time on 4G falls to the current level of 85 percent because of more time spent on 3G via voice calls.

It also reiterated plans to launch 5G within the next 18 months although the deployment will be driven by device availability and demand.

Other plans included the full convergence of BT and EE's mobile, Wi-Fi and broadband networks by 2022, which it said would deliver "seamless connectivity" to customers.

The operator is also launching a project to improve network quality within its 12,000 Wi-Fi hotspots, with a focus on indoor coverage. EE customers will also get access to the BT network.

EE's mobile network will also be used as a stopgap if the operator's broadband customers experience a fault or they are waiting for installation during a house move. Customers will be provided with MiFi units to tide them over this period.

Augmented reality will be incorporated into the operator's customer service, with EE staff being able inspect the implementation of a home router or device through a smartphone's camera. Consumers will also be given AR-esquipped set-up guides for installing new products.

The operator will launch a smart home range in June spanning smart camera, thermostats, sensors and lighting after signing partnerships with Hive and Nest for their products.

Paolo Pescatore, VP, Multiplay and Media, CCS Insight, said: "EE should be applauded for its agnostic approach to smart home solutions but the connected home is a hugely complex and fragmented area with uncertain returns on investment."

Marc Allera, CEO of BT’s Consumer business, said: “BT runs the UK’s most advanced mobile and broadband networks, but our customers demand better connections, and the best service no matter where they are. We’re investing across BT, EE and Plusnet so that we can provide our customers with the widest choice of products and services, on the best networks, and with the best service in the UK.

“We’re beginning our journey to create one converged, smart network built on our world-leading fixed and mobile networks – going beyond 4G, 5G, Wi-Fi and ultrafast broadband to seamlessly connect our customers wherever they are to the things that matter most to them.”

BT is looking to bounce back after announcing job cuts of 13,000 and a fall in operating profit last week.