EE goes wild in the country with rural rollout, as new 4G subscriptions outpace 3G

It is nearly 18 months since EE launched its fourth-generation network, and the company is turning its attention to smaller towns and villages, as well as transport hubs.

The EE charging tent at the Glastonbury festival. Image: EE

When EE first switched on 4G in late 2012 , it did so in 11 of the UK's major cities. Now, it's turning its attention to small towns and villages as it continues to roll out its fourth-generation mobile network.

The company announced on Wednesday that it has extended 4G coverage to more than 2,500 small towns and villages with populations under 10,000, including a Scottish village with fewer than 65 inhabitants.

"These are largely conurbations and commuter towns near to the 200 major towns and cities that we've already announced," an EE spokesman said. "EE is committed to enhancing the digital lives of everyone in the UK, and will continue to focus on a number of additional rural and semi-rural areas that have never benefitted from high speed broadband."

4G life is still better for those in the big cities, however. The company plans to extend the coverage for its 'double speed' 4G to 40 towns and cities by the end of the year, up from 20 today. Those in double speed areas can expect average download speeds in the region of 20Mbps, and 11Mbps for uploads.

EE is also bumping up coverage in major transport hubs, with 47 train stations and 22 airports in the country now within range of the 4G network. Motorways too are going LTE: there's 80 percent coverage on the M25 and 50 percent for the UK's other "busiest motorways and A-roads".

The company says it now has 200 towns and cities within its 4G network, with 72 percent of the UK population covered as a whole.

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According to EE, sales of 4G subscriptions are now exceeding those for 3G for the first time, with 4G data consumption up 66 percent year-on-year. However, the vast majority of customers across the EE, T-Mobile, and Orange brands — all of which are run by EE — remain on 3G. Of its 25 million or so mobile customers, only 3.6 million are 4G users.

The operator recently signed an MVNO agreement with BT, which will see it offering 4G services to its business customers from the summer, with consumer offerings to follow later this year.

EE yesterday launched a number of own-brand devices, all named after birds of prey. The Buzzard is an in-car wi-fi hotspot, which uses the 4G network to set up a wireless network in a vehicle, while two portable wi-fi devices — the Osprey and Kite — are meant to offer the same functionality for professional and young users on the move respectively. It also debuted a £199 Android tablet called Eagle.

EE was first to the market with launch of a 4G network, but has since been joined by rivals O2, Vodafone , and Three , which all switched on LTE last year. 

O2 said in April it has one million 4G customers and over a third of the UK covered by its fourth-gen network. Vodafone has around 640,000 4G subscribers, and around 36 percent population coverage.

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