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EE claims record European 4G growth, as it negotiates its future with BT

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UK mobile operator EE has reported that an additional 5.7 million customers were added to its network in 2014, with 1.7 million in the last two months of the year, comfortably exceeding its self-imposed target of 6 million to bring its total LTE user base up to 7.7 million. The UK’s largest mobile operator claimed that it has added more 4G customers than any other operator in Europe.

EE also stated that it instigated “record network expansion” across the year, as well as introducing more accessible (read “less ridiculously expensive”) 4G tariff plans, including the launch of £1 per week pay-as-you-go packs. It also continued the trend set by Orange (EE being a combination of legacy operators Orange and T-Mobile) of high-performance, low-cost 4G devices.

In 2014, EE said it added 350 cities and towns to its LTE network, with the vast majority being switched on in the last quarter of the year, bringing its total reach to 510 UK towns and cities with populations of 10,000 and above. Trivia buffs may like to know that the UK government has classified 907 towns and cities as having 10,000 or more inhabitants, from information garnered in the 2011 census, so EE is halfway there. (Unfortunately, my local town misses this cut-off by just 47 people, which probably explains why we are a 4G-free zone. If any readers would like to relocate to this charming idyll, then just let me and EE know…)

EE now claims to cover more than 80 per cent of the population and says it is on target to reach 98 per cent by the end of 2015. To achieve this, it needs to increase its focus on rural areas – a process already underway, it says, with 1,000 additional villages and small towns added at the end of last year, bringing the total up to almost 4,000. Whilst populations in villages are obviously small, the attraction for EE is that many of these rural locations do not yet have adequate fixed broadband.

EE has also revealed that six times more 4G data was uploaded and downloaded by customers in 2014 than in 2013, with traffic driven by customers sharing photos and videos on social media sites, as well as using streaming video services.

All of which sets up EE for a rather rosy future, so long as it can successfully conclude the £12.5 billion negotiations with dominant UK telco BT. If the exclusive talks between BT and EE’s owners France Telecom and Deutsche Telekom prove fruitful, then a combined BT-EE will have unprecedented coverage and user base. So long as the regulators approve.

The negotiations are expected to be concluded within the next month or so.

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