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EE UK Officially Launch 4G LTE Home Broadband Service in Rural Cumbria

Monday, November 11th, 2013 (8:34 am) - Score 6,387

Mobile operator EE (4GEE) has today launched their special 4G (LTE) based fixed wireless home broadband service, which focuses on rural areas and will cost up to around £25 per month for a data allowance of 25GB (though smaller packages start at £7.50). The first to benefit will be residents in remote parts of Cumbria (England).

As expected the service is based off the operators £1.5 million project in Cumbria’s Northern Fells and Threlkeld area of the Lake District (here and here). EE claims that the final network can deliver average speeds of 24Mbps (i.e. close to the government’s definition of “greater than 24Mbps” for “super-fast broadband“) and will cover a significantly wider area.

In fact the final deployment will be extended to cover more than 100 square miles – spanning from Wigton in the north to Threlkeld in the south – by March 2014. Come summer 2014, EE also plans to bring its fixed 4G service to a similarly isolated part of Bodmin Moor in the rural South West of England.

Olaf Swantee, EE’s CEO, said:

Our goal is to enhance the digital lives of everyone in the UK, and this major expansion of our superfast broadband service in one of the most rural and geographically challenging areas of the country is a big step towards that goal.

There is a lot of work to do in 2014 to reach more people and businesses in rural areas, and investment-friendly government policies have an important role to play in supporting this, but today we have proven that 4G has the capability to connect this country’s unconnected, and EE intends to continue to be at the forefront of that.”

The new service is expected to be made officially available from 6th December 2013 and it will be accompanied by a series of special packages (i.e. 2GB for £7.50, 4GB for £10 and 10GB for £15). It should also be noted that the 25GB package is currently being offered at the ‘promotional‘ price of £25 a month until 31st January 2014 (£30 thereafter).

Customers who order the service will also have to pay £69.99 for a special Huawei B953 router, which includes several high-gain internal antennas that have been designed for exactly this sort of application. The router supports maximum 4G download speeds of up to 100Mbps but is otherwise much like any other budget home router with the usual wifi support, LAN ports, USB port and one RJ11 port for attaching an analogue phone line.

According to EE, the new fixed 4G network cost around 10% less than would have been required in order to build a new fixed line setup to deliver superfast broadband over the same area. The press releases states that the cost of an alternative fixed line network would have been around £10 million but it doesn’t provide any specifics for a useful comparison.

However EE warned that it would be difficult to extend this platform to other areas. In particular the operator noted Ofcom’s huge licence fee hike for the 900MHz and 1800MHz bands that could cost them a whopping £82m per year (here). It also wants the government to re-focus their Broadband Delivery UK (BDUK) budget to include mobile operators and for the Electronic Communications Code to be reformed so that it can reflect “the importance of mobile to users, and the challenges that mobile operators face in maintaining and upgrading networks“.

Generally speaking this new service is good news but it appears to be arriving a little late to the party and well after most of the BDUK leg work has already been done. Thankfully there might still be an opportunity for mobile operators via the £250m that has been set aside to help superfast broadband reach 99% of the United Kingdom by 2018 (95% if you only include fixed line services).

The other question is whether or not EE’s new fixed 4G network is as capable, in terms of raw Internet access, as a comparable fixed line broadband product. Mobile based platforms often make use of features like IP address sharing that can cause problems and a usage allowance of 25GB is already beginning to look rather meagre.

Leave a Comment
14 Responses
  1. Avatar DanielM

    do we know if they are using shared ip addresses (as mobile) or dynamic?

  2. Avatar Chris Conder

    Great news, mobile is so vital in rural areas, and currently most don’t even have 2G. It also works out cheaper than having a landline and dial up!

    It isn’t a substitute for doing the job properly with a fibre, but its better than nothing. As long as the kids don’t get on it and start watching videos and use up the meagre bandwidth in the first weekend of the month that is. This is the issue people have with satellites, today’s demands cannot be delivered in a cost effective way by anything other than fibre.

    At some point this country is going to have to do it properly. The question shouldn’t be ‘how much will it cost’ but it should be ‘what is it going to cost us if we don’t do it’?

    The savings on eHealth, education and eGov will more than pay for investments in the infrastructure now. Pratting about giving the monopoly carte blanche to patch up old copper is just wasting taxpayers money.

    We need fibre. Fibre to the rural businesses, fibre to the masts for decent mobile – fibre, moral and optic in our government.

    • Avatar Ignitionnet

      Right, I have a few minutes.

      ‘This is the issue people have with satellites, today’s demands cannot be delivered in a cost effective way by anything other than fibre.’

      I agree with issues over the bandwidth caps on satellite but absolutely reject that fibre to the premises is required to deliver today’s demands cost effectively. ISPs are budgeting around the 300kbps mark per customer with a high single-digit requirement, which most definitely doesn’t need fibre to the premises.

      ‘The savings on eHealth, education and eGov will more than pay for investments in the infrastructure now. Pratting about giving the monopoly carte blanche to patch up old copper is just wasting taxpayers money.’

      Why do any of these require better than the average FTTN / 4G connection? eGov is cloud web based, education is streaming media, 2-way, as is eHealth. None of these are massively bandwidth consumptive and any FITL service, so long as the fibre is within 500m, is adequate.

      I am sorry that I keep bringing facts into the discussion. In some instances fibre to premises makes sense, no question. In other cases fibre needs pushing deeper into networks to enhance speeds. It is, however, not a viable blanket solution and your level of zealotry is inappropriate unless you are planning to use it to convince Bill Gates to invest.

      The UK is evolving towards FTTP, and indeed there is absolutely no reason whatsoever for new builds to be anything else, but we aren’t going to go there until the applications are present which demand it. The applications quite simply are not present, and ‘average’ FTTN is quite good enough.

      Nationwide FTTP is a wonderful aspiration but that’s what it is. It’s not a need and right now there’s no social or economic case for it. The case for improving access in rural areas is clear. The case for building out fibre to homes on the taxpayer’s tab isn’t there.

      Look at KPN. They planned FTTP, found the numbers didn’t work and rolled back. The NBN in Australia likewise.

    • Avatar zemadeiran

      I require the highest resolution available along with ten’s of megabits per second in order to simultaneously live stream several porn services…

      This is a now application 🙂

    • Avatar DTMark

      “so long as the fibre is within 500m, is adequate.”

      But this is the key phrase. The council has used our money to pay BT to put in VDSL to one of the two cabinets in the area.

      This will then leave me with a choice of VDSL or 4G. The cabinet is 800m away and the line is 1.2km long. 4G is very likely to outperform VDSL and I’ll probably end up staying with it most especially because of the much faster upstream speeds.

      And that’s based on the current 4G tech which can be improved upon but there’s no way of getting much if any more out of 1.2km of copper/aluminium. You could put in another two cabinets I guess but it’s just getting silly then trying to work around ancient wiring issues and the cost then keeps on mounting.

      Conversely 4G could not supply superfast speeds to everyone in range at any even medium contention ratio. They’re just pieces of the puzzle. Though of course FTTP could have delivered to everyone instead of having two disparate networks. But having a choice of infra provider is always good.

  3. Avatar Ignitionnet

    Damn RF cabal, deploying RF over the air as the last mile instead of getting fibre all the way into people’s homes and businesses.

    • Avatar gerarda

      I suspect people don’t really mind how they get a service as long as they get one. Given the way the market is moving with 20-25% of web access now via smartphones not being restricted to a connection at your home may soon become the preferred option.

    • Avatar Ignitionnet

      You’re totally preaching to the converted there. I’d take carrier pigeon if the latency weren’t so high.

    • Avatar Paul C

      Has Cumbria been used yet again by EE? Despite making the same announcement in March this year, EE’s roll out will not be complete till March ’14. 12 months to roll out 100 sq miles is not impressive. Did just spend £1 million to fight against an £80m OFCOM increase in license fees and try to grab some PR while they are at it?

  4. It would be interesting to compare the potential cost per customer ‘passed’ with the subsidy of c£300 per customer passed with FTTC.

    Why are EE not urging that MIP monies not used on this patch?

  5. Avatar Cumbrian Resident

    Looking at the EE website the B953 doesn’t seem to exist. The only one I can find is the B593 which is the bog standard router they sell to everybody. The website doesn’t mention high gain antennas and given EEs 4G coverage problems i’d have thought they’d be selling this to everyone on London! Can any Cumbrian trialist in current poor 2G coverage, recommend this router?

    • One reason for this might be because the service won’t go live until 6th December 2013 so you’re unlikely to see the router mentioned. At present their website just appears to reflect vanilla 4G Mobile Broadband packages.

    • Avatar DTMark

      I’ve been looking around for 4G routers as EE is our home broadband. I can find only two, there’s a D-Link one and a Huawei one (B593 in several flavours). This is the one given out by one of the ISPs in somewhere like Sweden designed to work with fixed line e.g. fibre and with 4G as a backup. It seems very well thought out for 4G, the only reason I haven’t got around to buying one is cost – £240 to £270 outright. There’s very little competition in the UK on these.

      £25/mo for 25GB/mo would be quite attractive, at the moment that costs us £75/mo.

  6. Avatar qasdfdsaq

    Well it’s December 6th and there’s still no sign of it on EE’s website either under “Home broadband” or “Mobile broadband”.

    Would be good if this took advantage of their huge amount of 2.6Ghz spectrum instead of the “standard” 1800 they’re using for LTE.

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