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EE promises to eradicate “not-spots” with 99.8 per cent population coverage by 2020

EE CEO Marc Allera

EE CEO Marc Allera © EE

  • EE working to eliminate “not-spots” by 2020
  • Target of 95 per cent landmass coverage by the end of the decade
  • 100 per cent of customer service calls to be handled in the UK and Ireland
  • VoLTE to be switched on throughout its network in July

EE, the UK’s biggest mobile operator and now part of the BT Group, has pledged to provide LTE coverage to 95 per cent of the UK landmass by 2020, and to offer coverage to 99.8 per cent of the population by 2020. It has also announced that (in an echo of parent BT’s decision recently) 100 per cent of its customer service calls will be handled in UK and Ireland by end of this year.

The investment in coverage will focus on filling in outdoor “not-spots” in current 4G areas (which are devoid of signal coverage at the moment) and expanding 4G coverage from 60 per cent of the country’s landmass today towards a target of 95 per cent by 2020. It also calls on the mobile industry to measure coverage metrics by UK geography, rather than the population score used today.

“For the average smartphone user, not-spots aren’t tolerated and 2G doesn’t deliver what they need,” said Marc Allera, CEO of EE. “Customers want 4G speeds everywhere they go, and mobile operators are too used to saying ‘no’ to new coverage. Today, I’m saying ‘yes’, with an ambition to go further than any operator has ever gone, and with the ultimate aim of covering the whole UK with 4G.”

Here’s the deal…

To achieve EE’s UK-wide 4G coverage objective, more than 750 new sites will be built – mainly in lower-ROI rural areas. And that, of course, requires significant investment. EE says that policy reform will be necessary to building and maintaining its expanded mobile network. This includes ensuring that proposed changes to the UK Electronic Communications Code support operators’ coverage ambitions, that proposed planning changes for England are carried out and developed, and that industry, government and Ofcom work together to improve network operators’ financial incentives to invest (a not-so subtle dig at plans to increase spectrum licence fees).

If not, there is no guarantee that EE’s promises will be met. However, all of the major mobile network operators in the UK have already agreed on a £5bn investment to improve voice and text coverage to reach 90 per cent of the UK by 2017 (although the target for mobile data is only 85 per cent). This was a result of the trade-off when the government agreed to drop its controversial plan to impose a National Roaming policy to resolve the “partial not-spots” issue. The telcos also collectively have a 4G population coverage target of 98 per cent by the end of next year.

Looking at customer service, EE says it has already boosted customer satisfaction and cut complaints by 50 per cent (they needed to, as customer satisfaction scores had been terrible) through an on-shoring programme that’s seen more than 1,400 jobs created in the UK and Ireland since 2014. The latest on-shoring of customer service roles will create 600 new jobs in the UK and Ireland.

EE also reveals that its VoLTE service is already live in nine UK cities, and will be switched on across the rest of its network by July this year.

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