UK mobile operator EE has already reached its end-2013 target of signing a million customers up to its 4G service, the operator said in a statement today.
EE (Hatfield, UK) became the first operator in the UK to launch an LTE network at the end of October 2012, after regulatory authorities controversially allowed the company to offer 4G services over spectrum originally provided for use with 2G.
“The UK mobile sector saw a huge shift 10 months ago with the launch of 4G from EE,” said Olaf Swantee, EE’s chief executive. “We set a new standard for UK mobile networks, and the way consumers and businesses are using their mobile devices in this country has been transformed.”
The operator – a joint venture between France Telecom (Paris) and Germany’s Deutsche Telekom (Bonn) – claims its LTE network now covers more than 100 towns and cities across the country and provides faster services than are available in the rest of Europe, as well as the US and Japan.
EE has benefited from owning a vast swathe of spectrum in the 1800MHz band, and recently began offering “double speed” 4G services to customers in a number of cities.
The operator was recently joined in the 4G market by Telefonica O2 (Slough, UK) and Vodafone (Newbury, UK), but both companies will struggle to match EE on coverage, in the short term, and will find it difficult ever to compete against the incumbent on speed given their relatively limited spectrum holdings.
Although both won 800MHz and 2.6GHz frequencies in a government auction earlier this year, neither has much 1800MHz spectrum to ‘refarm’ for use with 4G – something regulatory authorities have recently allowed.
The shortcoming also means neither will be able to provide 4G services over Apple’s (Cupertino, CA, USA) iPhone, which remains incompatible with the 800MHz and 2.6GHz bands.
Vodafone is trying to differentiate itself by including Sky Sports and Spotify services with its 4G offers, arguing that speed is irrelevant unless there is content to go with it.
The UK’s Financial Times newspaper says the update on 4G subscriptions could provide a boost to EE ahead of a possible flotation or part sale being considered by its parent companies.