UK mobile operator EE says it is aiming to sign 1 million customers up to its 4G service by the end of the year and hopes to attract new business by doubling connection speeds from their current level.
Speaking at a press conference in London, chief executive Olaf Swantee said the operator – a joint venture between Deutsche Telekom (Bonn, Germany) and France Telecom (Paris, France) – would start doubling average 4G speeds to 20Mbps by dedicating 20MHz of its 1800MHz spectrum to the service, compared with the 10MHz it uses today.
EE (Hatfield, UK) plans to introduce the 20Mbps service to the cities of Birmingham, Bristol, Cardiff, Edinburgh, Glasgow, Leeds, Liverpool, London, Manchester and Sheffield by the summer.
The operator says it is responding to predictions that mobile data traffic will grow by as much as 750% in the next three years.
“Video already accounts for 24% of all traffic on our 4G network – that’s significantly more than on 3G,” said Swantee. “Mobile users in the UK have a huge appetite for data-rich applications, and this will only grow as people become more familiar with and reliant upon next generation technologies and services.”
Nevertheless, EE is also coming under pressure from rivals including Vodafone (Newbury, UK), Telefonica O2 (Slough, UK) and Three UK (Maidenhead, UK), which all plan to launch rival 4G services later this year.
Having provided few details of subscriber take-up and targets so far, EE said it would aim to capture 1 million 4G customers by the end of 2013 – which would mean about 8% of its subscribers using the service just 14 months after its launch.
Fending off criticism that interest in its 4G offer has been disappointing, EE claimed that most operators have taken about two years to get 10% of their customers using 4G services.
The operator promised to provide updates on progress towards this goal in the coming months and noted that average revenue per user (ARPU) for a 4G customer is about 10% more than for other customers.
The announcement was welcomed by Mark Newman, the chief research officer of market-research company Informa Telecoms & Media.
“By rapidly expanding both the coverage and capacity of its network, EE has taken the necessary steps to maintain and extend its advantage in the 4G market and, importantly, to leapfrog itself into a leading position in the European LTE market,” he said.
EE also said it would begin to use the 800MHz and 2.6GHz spectrum it picked up in the recent 4G auction to complement its 1800MHz-based services, particularly in rural areas where the lower-frequency spectrum is a more economical deployment option.
It also said it would begin trials of LTE-Advanced, a next-generation standard promising even faster services than LTE, towards the end of 2013.