The owner of Orange Mobile and T-Mobile is boosting its spending in preparation for the next generation of mobile phone networks.
Britain’s largest mobile phone operator, Everything Everywhere, is investing £1.5bn over the next three years to prepare for the next generation of mobile phone technology 4G (LTE).
Everything Everywhere is a joint venture between France Telecom (the Orange mobile network) and Deutsche Telekom (T-Mobile) which started in May 2010. As expected with two huge mobile companies, the integration has been difficult. Last month, the company announced it was cutting 550 of its 15,000 staff (4%).
It today confirmed plans to accelerate the integration of the two mobile networks, meaning that Orange and T-Mobile will be able to use 2G and 3G signals from either of the networks producing the biggest 3G network with the widest 3G coverage in the UK. This will include cross-network signal sharing, enabling customers’ devices to automatically select the strongest signal from either network.
"We are making these investments so we can deliver on our ambition to provide the UK’s most reliable, biggest and best mobile data network," said Olaf Swantee, Everything Everywhere CEO.
"We believe that the UK requires a 21st century infrastructure and are committed to rolling out 4G as soon as possible to support growing data use, connect parts of the country with little or no mobile broadband, and drive economic growth."
Everything Everywhere in its partnership with BT Group has been testing 4G LTE at select sites around the country since September. 4G LTE networks are capable of producing wireless speeds up to 100mbit/s – comparable to current physical DSL broadband connections. Everything Everywhere says that mobile data has increased by 250% over the last two years alone. There are currently no 4G handsets (which are due in early 2012), but the network has been functioning using special 4G dongles for laptops.
The company also says the new network will help customers in rural areas achieve decent speeds wirelessly, rather than a costly fibre rollout.
The UK has fallen behind in this next generation of mobile technology. Ofcom, the independent regulator of the UK communications industry, has set no firm date for the 4G spectrum auction (which will use radio spectrum currently occupied by analogue TV). It is expected to occur in late 2012.
Such networks already exist in parts of the United States, Scandinavia and South Korea. Germany has completed its auction, earning the government €4.4bn, and the German telcos are already beginning to rollout 4G networks. France’s radio spectrum auction is currently under way.
Britain’s telcos have been warring over the spectrum, with smaller operators such as Hutchinson’s Three Mobile network demanding that Ofcom place limits on the spectrum available to its larger competitors, fearing they will be outbid and closed out of the next-gen market.