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EE Starts UK Deployment of 5G Mobile via the 700MHz Band

Tuesday, September 14th, 2021 (10:51 am) - Score 8,280
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Mobile operator EE (BT) has today announced that they will begin rolling out the new 700MHz band for use on their ultrafast 5G based mobile (mobile broadband) network from October 2021. Redditch, Morecambe and Cramlington will be amongst the first UK towns to benefit from the extra spectrum.

Ofcom auctioned off part of the 700MHz and 3.6-3.8GHz frequency bands to EE, Three UK, O2 (VMO2) and Vodafone earlier this year (here). The 700MHz band, which was formerly used for Digital Terrestrial TV services, is ideal for delivering wide geographic coverage because related signals tend to travel further and penetrate better into buildings.

Admittedly, you don’t get as much usable spectrum to play with in the lower frequency bands, which tends to result in only a modest improvement in mobile broadband speeds. But such spectrum can still be combined with similar neighbouring bands (Carrier Aggregation), such as 800MHz and 900MHz, to help improve performance. Rural areas have the most to gain from this, but it helps in urban areas too.

In addition, EE said that they aim to grow their coverage to “over half the population by early 2023,” which they said is “four years ahead of current Government ambitions.” The latter reflects the Government’s original, if quite vague, goal of achieving “majority 5G coverage by 2027” (as set in 2017), which wasn’t even mentioned in their 2019 Conservative Manifesto. The target also did not specify if it was for population or geographic cover.

David Salam, Director of Mobile at EE, said:

“As the UK’s best network, we continue to look for ways to provide our customers with the best 5G service possible. By further enhancing the indoor 5G coverage we provide, we’re helping boost the experience for those with the latest smartphones, allowing them to get the most from them in more places across the UK.”

The “UK’s best network” claim above is, of course, open to the usual debate and interpretation, although EE do tend to come top in a lot of benchmarks and surveys, albeit not all studies or categories. The operator finishes off their announcement by reminding us that their 5G network will “also pass the geographic reach of 4G to become the UK’s largest digital network by 2028, providing signal to over 90% of UK landmass” (here).

Sadly, EE doesn’t clarify how long the 700MHz band will take to rollout across the UK or how far it will go, since band choice does tend to vary between different cell sites. On top of that you’ll also need a 5G Smartphone that can harness the new band, although many of the latest phones should have chipsets that can handle it.

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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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15 Responses
  1. hammy says:

    Unfortunately it won’t be travelling further or penetrating better into buildings in its current NSA deployment on most 5G phones. Not to mention those with 4G phones won’t be able to use it at all.

    Should’ve just been rolled out as 4G like Three are doing with theirs.

    1. JitteryPinger says:

      Agreed.

    2. Connor says:

      Yeah that’s a good point, I know EE’s network does support having the 4G anchor on a different mast than the one serving you so this only really benefits indoor coverage if they already had good access to 4G.

    3. Sam P says:

      I thought 700Mhz was supposed to provide better indoor coverage?

    4. Connor says:

      @Sam all current 5G implementation in the UK are non-standalone which means it has to connect to 4G and then the 5G signal is provided alongside similar to 4G+

      The downside of this means 4G still handles the signaling so if you can’t get a 4G signal to handle the signaling you won’t be able to get 5G regardless of how strong the signal is.

      So this won’t expand indoor coverage but more expand 5G coverage where you can already get a 4G signal if the mast is setup to handle the signaling.

    5. hammy says:

      @Sam P NSA 5G needs a 4G anchor band to work. EE’s only other low band is 800MHz (B20). Most 5G phones don’t support this as an anchor with 700MHz (n28) 5G, they can only use it with higher frequency anchors like 1800MHz (B3) which effectively limits your coverage to that.

    6. Sam P says:

      Thanks both, that makes sense.

    7. Buggerlugz says:

      If it aint stand alone 5G it isn’t going to deliver anything like all the marketing BS the carriers spew forth, period.

  2. Sam says:

    BT are slowing ruining EE for me..

    1. JitteryPinger says:

      How do you figure BT is causing EE to slow…. from what I monitored in 2020 it was EE that made changes across its network that brought about the slowdown.

  3. JitteryPinger says:

    NR700 has been live for a while in Redditch ( I beleive )and I think it was DSS, so that ‘could’ mean 4G availability too.

    Maybe someone more aware of EE’s rollouts could correct me.

    1. Rajesh says:

      Probably, EE is doing 4G 700. But again, none of the devices supports 4G 700 as anchor for 5G 700. Also, not many devices supports 800 as anchor for 5G 700. So it will benefit only in 1800 coverage area, I guess

  4. James Pryce says:

    We’re using 700 MHz over coastal regions in Dorset to reach areas that we can’t serve easily with masts and infrastructure. Check it out below, pretty neat. Oh and ours is a standalone 5G network although not public as yet… 😉

    https://5gruraldorset.org/2021/07/06/worlds-first-in-field-standalone-700-mhz-5g-network-deployed-in-rural-dorset/

    1. Gary says:

      Not that ultimate speed is the be all end all of this type of deployment , but… what kind of speeds are you seeing towards the outer edges of the ‘good’ signal.

      ,

  5. sean says:

    hey mark what sort of download speeds will the 700 mhz band offer?. this is low band doesnt three use mostly mid band. i assume higher the frequency the faster the speeds? but less coverage distance.

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