EE to Pilot 1Gbit/s 4G Service

The UK's mobile giant has unveiled plans for a pilot of 1Gbit/s 4G services but says it is not looking to compete against fixed-line broadband players.

Iain Morris, International Editor

September 30, 2015

4 Min Read
EE to Pilot 1Gbit/s 4G Service

MUNICH -- Gigabit Europe -- UK mobile giant EE is planning on carrying out a pilot of gigabit-speed services over its 4G network using technologies including carrier aggregation and MIMO.

A 1Gbit/s service would be more than six times as fast as the 150Mbit/s service that EE claims it can provide on its "double speed" 4G network, which aggregates 20MHz carriers in each of the 1800MHz and 2.6GHz bands.

Speaking to attendees at Light Reading's Gigabit Europe event in Munich earlier Wednesday, Paul Ceely, EE's head of network strategy, said the operator was looking to provide 1Gbit/s services over its network before introducing 5G technology from 2020 onwards.

"We think 4G can get you to 1Gbit/s and are looking to run a pilot of that," he said.

Light Reading is trying to confirm details of the timescale for the 1Gbit/s pilot with EE, but Ceely indicated the higher speeds would be made possible by aggregating as many as five spectrum carriers and through the use of MIMO.

Sometimes described as a "smart antenna" technology, MIMO boosts capacity by adding antennas at the transmitter and receiver devices.

Thanks largely to the merger between T-Mobile UK and Orange UK that brought it into existence, EE controls more spectrum than any of its rivals and would look to re-farm holdings in the 1800MHz and 2.1GHz bands to provide the 1Gbit/s services.

A gigabit capability would allow EE to challenge the UK's fixed-line operators on service speeds, but Ceely insisted the operator was not interested in competing in that market.

Instead, he believes EE could provide services in those areas fixed-line players are likely to ignore.

"It could be a temporary service in a area where people are going to be living for a short period of time before they move on," he said.

The availability of a 1Gbit/s mobile service would also seem likely to interest public-sector authorities keen to ensure that consumers in more isolated parts of the UK can make use of high-speed services.

With little commercial case for providing fixed-line broadband services in many rural areas, there is clearly the risk that a gigabit divide could develop between these communities and more densely populated parts of the country.

The rollout of gigabit broadband access networks is spreading. Find out what's happening where in our dedicated Gigabit Cities content channel here on Light Reading.

Even so, Ceely acknowledges that -- as in the case of other cellular technologies -- the number of users in a particular cell will have an impact on the real-world speeds that 4G networks can deliver. "You wouldn't want to launch IPTV until you've got broadcast video in place, and that's something we're also looking into."

Indeed, LTE-Broadcast is another 4G-based technology EE has been exploring as a means of supporting future services. (See EE Trials UHD Service on 4G Network and EE to Trial 400 Mbit/s 4G, eMBMS at Wembley.)

EE has previously carried out trials of 400Mbit/s 4G services by combining three carrier channels -- so-called "tri-band carrier aggregation" -- and it could introduce that technology on a commercial basis next year, according to Ceely.

EE still claims to be the fastest-growing 4G operator in Europe, with more than 10.9 million 4G subscribers at the end of June.

By the time it carries out its 1Gbit/s trials, EE may well be a part of UK fixed-line incumbent BT Group plc (NYSE: BT; London: BTA), which launched a £12.5 billion ($19 billion) takeover bid for the company earlier this year and is hoping to complete the deal by early 2016. (See BT Locks Down £12.5B EE Takeover Deal.)

A merger between the two players will create the UK's biggest operator of both fixed and mobile networks and has yet to secure the approval of national competition authorities.

— Iain Morris, Circle me on Google+ Follow me on TwitterVisit my LinkedIn profile, News Editor, Light Reading

Read more about:


About the Author(s)

Iain Morris

International Editor, Light Reading

Iain Morris joined Light Reading as News Editor at the start of 2015 -- and we mean, right at the start. His friends and family were still singing Auld Lang Syne as Iain started sourcing New Year's Eve UK mobile network congestion statistics. Prior to boosting Light Reading's UK-based editorial team numbers (he is based in London, south of the river), Iain was a successful freelance writer and editor who had been covering the telecoms sector for the past 15 years. His work has appeared in publications including The Economist (classy!) and The Observer, besides a variety of trade and business journals. He was previously the lead telecoms analyst for the Economist Intelligence Unit, and before that worked as a features editor at Telecommunications magazine. Iain started out in telecoms as an editor at consulting and market-research company Analysys (now Analysys Mason).

Subscribe and receive the latest news from the industry.
Join 62,000+ members. Yes it's completely free.

You May Also Like