UK cellco EE is seeking to consolidate its early mover advantage with an expansion of its 4G network, a leading Informa Telecoms & Media analyst says.
The operator last week revealed it will add 17 new towns and cities to its current 4G network in March, taking total coverage to 35 towns. The firm is the first to launch a commercial 4G service in the UK, after being granted permission by regulator Ofcom to refarm its existing 1800-MHz spectrum, but will face increasing competition next year after a full scale auction of 4G frequencies.
Thomas Wehmeier, principal analyst at Informa, notes the expansion covers more than just adding new towns to the network. “EE is also investing in improving the capacity of its network in existing cities,” he says, pointing out the move will help “ensure a consistent experience as more customers join the network,” and “improve coverage indoors.”
While user experience and overall coverage are key factors for any operator, Wehmeier says EE is also gearing up for the entrance of its UK rivals to the 4G space. “A competitive 4G market is expected from as early as May,” he says, noting that EE’s management has already conceded that “the real challenges to its 4G strategy are yet to come.”
Potential challenges include resisting the temptation to dilute prices in the face of competition, a “marketing onslaught” from rival carriers, and whether EE can “secure enough compelling devices to avoid customers being lured by must-have phones offered by competitors,” Wehmeier notes.