UK makes progress on LTE as O2 picks BT for backhaul, EE expands network

The UK may have been late to the LTE game, but the deployment of the technology is now advancing across the UK, with recent announcements from operators highlighting further progress in their rollouts of LTE networks.

BT said it won a 10-year deal to help build an LTE network for Telefónica's O2 UK. According to The Register, the deal is said to be worth around £500 million over the next decade.

BT recently indiciated it is seeking a new mobile partner to assist a renewed focus on mobile services to exploit its recently acquired LTEspectrum. O2 was already regarded as the most likely partner, and this view has been reinforced by the O2 network deal with BT.

For O2, the deal with BT will help it to build a robust LTE network to cope with growing data traffic generated by increased use of smartphones and tablets. BT is to build a new high-capacity transmission network, and "will also provide O2 with a sizeable increase in backhaul capacity by delivering the high-speed mobile backhaul links between its mobile base stations and the new transmission network", BT said in the release.

"With the UK's 4G spectrum auction complete, UK mobile data traffic is set to grow by more than 400 per cent by 2016," O2 UK CTO Adrian Di Meo said in a statement. "This is a huge opportunity for us, as well as a technical challenge."

Meanwhile, EE said it has made further progress on the rollout of its LTE network, saying it has now reached 62 towns and cities across the UK and covers 50 per cent of the population.

"By the end of June, EE is committed to launching LTE in at least another 18 towns and cities, bringing the total to 80, and aims to cover 70 per cent of the population by the end of 2013," the company said in a statement.

Progress in the UK has been slow but steady following the completion earlier this year of the much-delayed spectrum auction. EE was able to get a head start last year by refarming existing 1800 MHz spectrum, although the operator's progress has been less than overwhelming. It recently reported that it signed up 318,000 "4GEE" subscribers in its first five months, but still reported a decline in first-quarter revenue.

For more:
- see this EE release
- see this BT release
- see this Register article
- see this Telegraph article

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