EE Plots Drones to Blanket UK for 4G

Communications drones could be flying over England's green and pleasant land in years to come if mobile operator EE has its way.

EE said that it plans to use what it calls "air masts" in its "Signalling The Future" manifesto, which lays out the UK mobile operator's $2.3 billion plans to extend its 4G LTE coverage to 99% of the UK population by 2017. (See Eurobites: EE Invests in Rural 4G Rollout.)

The operator could use tethered ballons or drones to add rural coverage at lower costs than deploying cell towers. The operator describes the air masts as "essentially aerial small cells positioned in the sky above a hard-to-reach areas."

Watching the skies? Keep up with our drone coverage on the IoT channel on Light Reading.

EE is one of the first service providers to go public with future coverage plans centered around unmanned vehicles. Such blue-sky thinking has so far been the domain of tech giants like Facebook and Google (Nasdaq: GOOG). (See Forget the Internet, Brace for Skynet and Facebook, Google in New Drone Race.)

However, Australian operator Telstra Corp. Ltd. (ASX: TLS; NZK: TLS) is helping Google with its "Project Loon," which aims to deliver Internet from the sky via balloons. (See Bell Labs Chief Slams 'Toy' Networks and The New Internet Space Race: Google's Final Frontier?.)

Of course, we don't know how these plans might change if and when BT Group plc (NYSE: BT; London: BTA) completes its $19.1 billion buyout of EE. (See BT Locks Down £12.5B EE Takeover Deal.)

— Dan Jones, Mobile Editor, Light Reading

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DHagar 2/13/2015 | 4:07:07 PM
Re: Blanket? come off it.. Liz Lloyd, interesting.  Are you satisfied with it?

So you have the best of both worlds - green hills and "connectivity"!
DanJones 2/13/2015 | 1:58:47 PM
Re: Blanket? Come off it.... Yeah, I know, I used to live on Lambeth Walk.
Liz Lloyd 2/13/2015 | 1:27:45 PM
Re: Blanket? Come off it.... And I live in the middle of nowhere in Yorkshire and already have EE 4G in them there 'ills....
Gabriel Brown 2/13/2015 | 1:02:50 PM
Re: Blanket? Come off it.... Speaking of high-end literature for the educated classes, I live near where, aged 10, Wiliam Blake claimed to have seen "a tree filled with angels, bright angelic wings bespangling every bough like stars." Trufax.

He's famous around these parts of London, which are no longer as green as they once were.
mendyk 2/13/2015 | 11:12:27 AM
Re: Blanket? Come off it.... I'd blame the US education system but most of the comments have been coming from the right side of the Atlantic.
DanJones 2/13/2015 | 11:09:08 AM
Re: Blanket? Come off it.... Pffft. All the focus on the headline and none on the William Blake reference in the lede. Bunch of goddam philistines!
DanJones 2/13/2015 | 10:59:00 AM
Re: Could the UK get comms drones before the USA? Yes it does, you need to read the whole thing.
mendyk 2/13/2015 | 10:58:06 AM
Re: Blanket? Come off it.... "EE May Some Day Scatter Some Thin Doilies of 4G Coverage Over Isolated UK Regions Using Drones and/or Balloons" -- now THAT'S what I call a click-bait headline!
DanJones 2/13/2015 | 10:56:05 AM
Re: Blanket? Come off it.... Not my original headline, as it happens, but whatever. They are planning to blanket the UK with LTE and using UAVs to fill in hard to reach rural gaps may be part of that.
pdonegan67 2/13/2015 | 6:24:07 AM
Blanket? Come off it.... "EE Plot Drones To Blanket UK for 4G"

Blanket ?


Let's look again at what EE's "Signalling The Future" document actually says:

"We will begin exploring 'Air Masts': Essentially aerial small cells positioned in the sky above hard-to-reach areas, using either tethered balloons or unmanned craft, bridging the UK's transmission gap."

"Hard to reach areas" is the key phrase. In other words EE is exploring the potential for whether, maybe, this kind of technology might possibly, maybe fill a (very?) small niche requirement in some (handful of?) circumstances. As in a possibly, maybe kinda way. Errr, some time...

Not so much a company "plot" to "blanket the UK" with drones then per the headline. More the day-dreams of a couple of blue-sky thinkers for a possible future network coverage equivalent of a mankini. Nothing wrong with that of course but let's at least call it what it is (although please Dan, no pics)

Our couple of unnamed blue sky thinkers even managed to get their lunch-time chat (is there really any more to it than that?) included in EE's document. This is for the time- honoured reasons that it sounds funky ("media attention" tick box), promises rural broadband coverage ("politicians happy" tick box) and is totally non-committal ("investors needn't worry" tick box). Awesome ! How cool is that?

Actually the rest of the "Signalling The Future" document does a very good job of highlighting the tremendous strides EE has made in leading Europe's LTE roll-out with a terrific network in the UK. The terrestrial one, I mean. Down to earth - literally.







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