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EE Boost Rural UK 4G Mobile Broadband Cover via External Antenna

Friday, February 9th, 2018 (8:00 am) - Score 26,322

Mobile operator EE has decided to complement their existing 4G based wireless 4GEE Home Broadband service by introducing its own brand of external antenna, which can be fixed to the outside of your house in order to improve signal reception and thus Mobile Broadband performance.

In some rural areas it’s already possible to receive a faster broadband connection over 4G than via the best available fixed line broadband ISP solution, which is one of the reasons why EE last year chose to introduce a new LTE-Advanced (Category 7) capable 4G+ Home Router that could theoretically handle Mobile Broadband speeds of up to 300Mbps (here).

The 4GEE Home Broadband router could also be taken alongside huge monthly data allowances of up to 200GB (monthly prices range from about £25 for 10GB to £60 for 200GB). The router itself is free on an 18 month contract or you could pay a one-off charge of £99 via a 30 day term.

ee 4g home router

However an indoor device won’t always deliver the best signal reception and so ideally you’d need to consider an external antenna, which can be fixed to the outside of your property and then connected via a cable directly to the 4GEE router. Various generic brand antennas can already be purchased but EE has now decided to sell its own solution, which for a one-off payment of £100 will also come alongside a professional installation.

The new antenna has already been tested in the Northern Fells area of Cumbria, where it helped to deliver Mobile Broadband speeds of “over” 100Mbps to local homes. This is related to a similar trial that was conducted during 2013 (here and here), although back then EE’s network didn’t support modern 4G+ features like Carrier Aggregation (i.e. average speeds have significantly improved).

Max Taylor, EE’s MD of Marketing, said:

“As our network continues to expand into some of the most remote parts of the UK, we’ve seen the amazing impact that 4G connectivity can have on rural communities. Our newest 4G home broadband router and antenna takes this one step further, ensuring thousands of families in rural areas across the UK could enjoy the benefits of superfast broadband inside their home for the very first time – whether video-calling the grandparents or streaming their favourite TV series.”

Rory Stewart, MP for Penrith and The Border, said:

“What EE is doing is transformative. One of the real challenges is getting fixed fibre into people’s houses because they are so sparsely populated in rural areas. The great thing about EE’s new solution though is that it’s wireless – allowing people to get superfast home broadband via 4G. As the number of new mobile masts continue to roll out, more and more areas of Cumbria will come online. With access to fast broadband, people’s lives really will be transformed”

The approach being taken by EE is perhaps not as original as suggested in the comments above, not least because a couple of third-party companies have been taking exactly the same approach (i.e. installing external antennas alongside 4G routers with a data tariff), while piggy-backing off EE’s network, for the past few years. Not to mention that ordinary users with a bit of knowledge have been able to do this themselves for even longer (e.g. Poynting XPOL2 antenna).

What makes this different is that a major national operator like EE has now centralising such deployments around a single branded product offering (home router, antenna, installation and data plan), which makes it easier to understand and sell. In keeping with that they’ve recently updated their fixed line broadband availability checker, which now also includes the option of their 4GEE Home Broadband service, where viable.

Furthermore if the customer has an existing EE Pay Monthly phone plan or 12 month SIM Only plan, then EE will also boost their phone’s monthly data allowance by an extra 5GB (fixed line broadband subscribers get the same benefit).

At present EE claims that their 4G network should be able to reach 90% of the United Kingdom’s landmass (equal to more than 99.6% of UK homes), which by 2020 could reach 95%, and they predict that 580,000 homes with slow or no fixed line access could thus benefit from their 4GEE solution.

The obvious pitfall in all this is that speeds of 100Mbps+ (this won’t be viable everywhere) are all well and good but end-users will still be hobbled by the expensive mobile data allowances, particularly with Ofcom stating that fixed line users who can access superfast broadband tend to gobble an average of 231GB per month. On the other hand it’s still an attractive solution for those most in need.

UPDATE 9:03am

EE has just released this video.

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By Mark Jackson
Mark is a professional technology writer, IT consultant and computer engineer from Dorset (England), he also founded ISPreview in 1999 and enjoys analysing the latest telecoms and broadband developments. Find me on Twitter, , Facebook and Linkedin.
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31 Responses
  1. Frank Butcher says:

    With three teenage children we regularly get through 600GB a month. Over 900GB is the record so far!

  2. Aerial Installer says:

    Got to love marketing – EE installer turns up in Defender with no roofrack and appears with Extending Ladders, has no PPE for working at height etc :-0

    On a more serious note the install is terrible – you should never mount into a Quoin on older buildings – even if not listed building its very bad practise.

    For £100 inc Vat Antenna and Install – I guess EE are using Bodge-it-&-scarper Co who’ve spent their time throwing in Sky dishes…

    Good luck

  3. Tom Bartlett says:

    Does the router have an Ethernet socket?

    1. Mark Jackson says:

      I recall seeing somebody who didn’t have an external antenna connecting an Ethernet LAN cable into the back alongside the power adapter. However at the time I didn’t get a good look at the back, hence I’m not 100% certain.

    2. Devon Paddler says:

      Yes has a LAN port. A WAN port and 2x SMA connectors

      It also goes to sleep a lot

      Oh and has root ssh access with a default password so really not very secure

    3. Guy Cashmore says:

      You aren’t forced to use the EE supplied router if it doesn’t suit, I just used the SIM card supplied with the EE package, bought a better router elsewhere.

    4. Web Dude says:

      @Guy – for the benefit of others (perhaps coming here via a search several months down the line, it might be nice to know what router you chose (and roughly what it cost), please ?

    5. Guy Cashmore says:

      I’m using a Teltonika RUT950 and it has been very good. 4 lan and 1 wan socket on it.

    6. Mike Hunt says:

      The best router for EE’s network is the Huawei B525, you can get them off Amazon for £150.

      For other non-LTE+ networks like Three you may as well get the Huawei B315 (Cat.3) for £100 (can also get this directly from Three with one of their HomeFi plans).

      The Telnonika seems overpriced.

  4. Boosey says:

    I think people are missing the bigger picture on this one.

    As mobile providers continue to build out further antennas and install bigger pipes, this will soon become a major chunk of the market, laying fibre to households is expensive and BT (for all their faults) that acuiring EE will allow them to offer the connectivity requirements of most in all corners of the kingdom.

    1TB/Unlimited(ish) Mobile Internet via this method is just around the corner, I imagine.

    1. craski says:

      4G is always going to be a more attractive proposition over satellite.

    2. Mike says:

      Three used to provide it until T-Mobile got gobbled up (no more unlimited competition).

      IMO since Three have restricted/raised price of data the speeds haven’t got any better, I think with 5G it might make a come back as EE is already doing 200GB for a reasonable price.

    3. Web Dude says:

      @Mike “Three have restricted/raised price of data”

      They only show 40 GB for 24 quid on the website but in chat I was told they are experimenting with 100 GB option. Some months ago it was 30 GBP so perhaps EE is using the same price (but doubled) to be sure they are competitive for wireless-based supply.

    4. Mike says:

      I am referring to the One Plan that used to allow unlimited data (inc. tethering).

  5. Phil says:

    As an existing ee mobile home broadband customer I just tried to hop over onto this contract. They wanted £ 100 per month plus install cost.

  6. Mike says:

    External antennas really do make a huge difference, jump from 10Mbps (4G router antennas) to 50Mbps (dual yagi 45 deg polarization on tv aerial). If you don’t have access to roof or got to put it on a wall then get a Poynting XPOL2 omni antenna.

    Wouldn’t trust EE to install it though.

    1. Mike says:

      At night I saw speeds of 65-75Mbps down, upload was always around 30Mbps up.

    2. FibreFred says:

      What are you basing your lack of mistrust on?

    3. FibreFred says:

      ..or just.. lack of trust 🙂

  7. Andrew Hearn says:

    The only way long term is fibre to the home, you could then turn off most of the high power TV and radio transmitters wasting megawatts of power and also lower the noise floor for all sorts of radio telecommunications. But of course it will never happen with accountants in charge!

    1. Web Dude says:

      I thought the “MegaWatt” (500 kW, in the main, from what I’ve read) transmissions were scrapped when the analogue transmissions were replaced by 100 kW transmitters. Admittedly not “nothing” but much lower that previously.

    2. TheFacts says:

      ERP, effective radiated power, or actual power consumption?

  8. Guy Cashmore says:

    Been using EE 4G (and nothing else) at my rural home and business for nearly a year now, going from 1 Mbps ADSL to 45 Mbps with 4G. Reliability, ping and VOIP have all been consistently better than ADSL. The only down side is the data cap/cost, if this can be resolved then I believe 4G can definitely provide a short-medium term solution for most users while we wait for FTTP.

    In other more developed 4G markets, Finland in particular, data caps don’t exist, customers pay for speed, not data volume. Hopefully this move by EE will encourage the other 4G spectrum licence holders to enter this market, ultimately driving prices down and data caps up.

  9. Paul says:

    Have been using two 4g/LTE modems (teltonika rut950 – great units but don’t trust the auto SIM switching on data limit) on VOD for a while now but after you go beyond the 50gb data cap they absolutely rob you for every GB thereafter. They also do not support VoIP or any incoming connections, so for that we still need the pathetic excuse of a supplier that is BT. Would gladly pay £60 for the data cap mentioned here but not so sure about using EE given that they are part of BT.

    1. Guy Cashmore says:

      Like you I’m been using EE with a RUT950, been almost a year now, VOIP is perfect, no problems at all, been 100% reliable, using a cheap Grandstream ATA connected by Ethernet and SIPgate basic service. On the 100GB package, but they also rob me for more data, £1 a GB.

    2. Richard says:

      The SIM switching on data limit is working properly on firmware version 00.03.832

  10. Marcus Clifford says:

    A Teltonika RUT950 (4G) is my current backup broadband connection. I am with Three though as only they would provide a non-CGNAT solution. EE / Vodafone etc all provide a private IP address which is no use for what I need my connection for.

    Do we know if this EE offering would provide a public IP address? If it did I’d consider switching as the 200GB data allowance is attractive.

    The RUT950 is excellent, it is powered by passive POE and sitting it by the window facing the mast I get outstanding speeds on Three and EE (initial testing was in line with the advert – 100 mbps down / 40 up).

    As others have said though the killer is the data cap… in the YouTube advert people are talking about Netflix and iPlayer. I watch a few series on Netflix and on average each episode is about 4 GB, Amazon is higher – a Grand Tour episode on Friday was 7.5 GB size.

    1. Bill says:

      Then you would be better off on Three, with GoBinge the following are all free:

      Apple Music

    2. Mike says:

      Have you considered using a VPN to get a public IP?

  11. Imran says:

    Do you get a public IP with this and can you port forward?

  12. Charles says:

    I can confirm that Three are offering 100g for £30 a month for a 12 month contract or £29 pm for 24 months. I’m semi rural and it works a treat here. Not sure what happens once `I reach the cap!
    Plusnet have been given the elbow along with their landline

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