EE announces 5G expansion as part of fresh drive to improve rural connectivity

  • Rural boost as EE announces next stage of 5G rollout on path to full UK coverage
  • National Parks, seasonal hotspots and over 500 smaller towns and villages get EE’s 5G signal for the first time
  • BT Group outline new innovations to drive improved network reach, resilience and energy efficiency and delivers UK’s first 4G transmission over low earth orbit satellite

London: EE today announces new details of its nationwide investment to connect the UK to 5G, with the technology reaching hundreds of rural communities across the UK for the first time. A series of new innovations that will boost the range, resilience and energy efficiency of mobile connectivity in the years ahead have also been unveiled.

5G rollout windfall for rural communities

EE’s 5G network, which already reaches nearly every major UK town and city as well as over 60% of the population, is now expanding into more rural populations. Nearly 500 smaller communities, including Church Stretton and Birkenshaw in England, Llandeilo and Pen-y-banc (Carmarthenshire) in Wales and Tayport and Ratho in Scotland, now have their first 5G signal from EE, bringing the total number of UK cities, towns and villages where customers can access EE 5G to over 1,000.

As part of the rollout, EE’s 5G is also reaching National Parks and popular rural tourist destinations. Among seasonal hotspots seeing a 5G boost are Berwick-upon-Tweed and Windermere in England, Brecon (Aberhonddu), Dolgellau (Gwynedd) and Narberth (Pembrokeshire) in Wales, and Fort William in Scotland. The Brecon Beacons, Pembrokeshire Coast and The Broads are also named as the first National Parks to be getting the technology, which will deliver better performance and connectivity for residents, businesses and visitors. The investment in rural coverage is part of a commitment to deliver an EE 5G solution anywhere in the UK by 2028.

Technological innovation drives network improvements

BT Group has announced it is testing a range of innovative technologies to boost the range, reliability and energy efficiency of its networks. These include:

  • UK’s first 4G sent over low earth orbit satellite: BT Group has partnered with OneWeb to achieve the first transmission of 4G data using a low Earth orbit (LEO) satellite link to connect an EE mast to the mobile core network, instead of a traditional line of sight microwave or fibre connection. This paves the way for connecting small ultra-remote communities, emergency responders and disaster recovery units and other temporary deployments like festivals, events or construction sites.
  • Mobile coverage in harder to reach areas: In collaboration with Stratospheric Platforms Ltd (SPL), BT Group is running a trial that aims to deliver mobile coverage from the air using a ‘High Altitude Platform’ (HAPS) system being tested at BT’s Global innovation centre (Adastral Park). This has the potential to unlock connectivity for the most remote areas.
  • Self-powering sites: EE is weeks away from launching its first self-powering mast using sustainable energy, in Wales’ Elan Valley. Initial assessments demonstrate that local sourced renewable energy (wind and solar) can contribute up to 90% of the site’s requirements.
  • Biofuels phase-in: Trials are commencing to test the use of biofuels like Hydrotreated Vegetable Oil (HVO), Biogas and Hydrogen in network generators to support wider resilience. EE will initially implement the solutions as a trial across 20 physical sites.

Underlying 4G leadership the key to a quicker rollout

EE has also revealed that its 4G network is on track to pass 90% of the UK’s geographic landmass by the mid-2020s thanks in part to the huge investment made in network infrastructure in line with its commitment to the Shared Rural Network (SRN). EE’s founding 4G network stretches more than 2,500 square miles further than the nearest challenger, with new 4G coverage added to nearly 50 locations every single month over the past three years. The network expects its landmark 1,500th upgrade under the SRN as early as next month.

Wi-Fi coverage boost to mobile signal

EE’s Wi-Fi coverage boost, which launched last year, offers customers access to more than 150,000 Wi-Fi hotspots, all based in rural or indoor locations. Customers have already downloaded more than 350TB of accumulative data using the new feature – equivalent to streaming HD television continuously for 13 years - in areas where it wasn’t previously achievable.

Howard Watson, Chief Security and Networks officer, BT Group, said: “The network rollout progress announced today is a critical step toward meeting our goal of enabling a 5G connection anywhere in the UK by 2028. The strength of our underlying 4G network, thanks in part to improvements made under the Shared Rural Network, has put us in the best position to make widespread 5G coverage improvements outside of big cities. Speaking as a technologist, I’m proud of the way BT Group is applying new innovations to reduce the digital divide.”

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