Hearing voices, EE is called back to traditional values.
After battering the British public with its relentless advertising campaign about the sheer brilliance and wonderment of its LTE broadband data services (now available in some parts of the UK) and going trendily retro by cunningly disguising its High Street retail shops to look like the gas and electricity utility offices of the 1970s, EE (the entity formerly known as Everything Everywhere, which it never was) is moving on and is now turning its attention to voice calls.
EE, jointly owned by Orange and Deutsche Telekom, will, over the course of 2014, spend the princely sum of £275 million on improving the quality and reliability of mobile voice calls. The service provider has taken upon itself the task and ambition of setting "a new benchmark for voice call quality and reliability".
If the initiative is successful, EE will, by the end of next year, be the first mobile carrier in Britain to reduce the rate of dropped calls to just 0.5 per cent.
Commenting on the investment plan, CEO Olaf Swantee pointed out that as things stand EE's call drop rate is 0.8 per cent on a volume of more than one billion calls per week but adds, "I think the UK mobile industry can do better, and we intend to improve the experience for our customers, taking our quality and reliability to levels to those achieved by other operators across Europe."
Well, it would seem that EE's call drop rate is way ahead of some other UK mobile telcos. For reasons that aren't worth bothering to elucidate now, I find myself hitched to another UK mobile service provider. Let's call it Vodafone. I also have, (for reasons and blah, blah, blah. Please see above) an iPhone 5. It is a combination that is driving me to distraction.
The fact is that I Iive quite near Mr. Swantee but, as far as the number of call failures I routinely experience is concerned, I might as well be in a yurt in the Gobi Desert. Failed connections and dropped calls are constant and aggravating. I keep a running tally and the failure rate is about one in three - hence the interest in EE's plan to improve the traditional voice call.
Mr. Swantee strikes a chord when he says, "For the majority of our customers, being able to make a phone call when they need to is still the vital aspect of the mobile experience. Innovative, high-speed data services receive most of the attention in the mobile industry as they are changing the way people communicate, connect, trade and interact. However, we carried more voice calls on our network than ever before this year, and we know that call reliability is essential for our customers. That's why we plan to invest in our voice call service in 2014 as we strive to set new standards in call quality and reliability."
EE says that to achieve its current 99.2 per cent call success rate it has upgraded 20 year old 2G equipment on over 6,000 sites and, by so doing has reduce dropped calls on that part of its network by 50 per cent.
Next year the telco will upgrade another 5,000 of its venerable 2G sites as well as install new equipment in 5,500 3G sites - the ones that now carry two in three of all EE calls. it will also trial so-called '4G voice' (VoLTE) and voice over Wi-Fi.
The volume of calls on the EE network has increased by a quarter since January 2012. It is not known how much of this increase can be attributed to the fact that the UK regulator, Ofcom, gifted EE an early monopoly on the provision of 4G service. The carrier was given a free and literally, unrivalled run over many months before the other service providers were allowed to compete with their own LTE offerings - a fact that still rankles with them.
EE says that, by year end, its LTE services will be available in 160 UK towns and cities and so it behoves us to remember at this special time of year that LTE isn't just for Christmas, it's for life.