EE 4G mobile services may be available in a number of cities already, but coverage will not be halting at that point and to fund improvements to masts and the backhaul network EE is borrowing £350m from the European Investment Bank (EIB). This according to the article in the Daily Telegraph forms part of the £1.5 billion of spending on network investment due over the next three years.
Three strands of work seem to be at the core of this, increasing mast heights from an average of 15m to 30m (seven double decker buses high) which should increase the footprint of each mast, replacing old 2G antennae with ones more suited to 4G and ensuring better backhaul capacity is available.
Where mobile masts are located is often a problem for local authorities, as on one hand there are those who want the masts no where near them and on the other hand there are many complaining about mobile phone signals. By raising the height the exposure to signal should be reduced for those closest to the mobile mast, but it may also make them more visible and raise complaints from the local populace. It seems the relaxation of planning rules announced earlier in the year anticipated a lot of this work, as mobile services got a specific mention.
The loan from the EIB itself is raising some questions, as the EIB is a non-profit making part of the EU, and if competitors to EE are not able to get similar low cost loans there is likely to be objections. With EE already granted the ability to start its 4G roll-out before other operators, there does seem to be an impression that EE is getting an easier ride on the journey to a 4G enabled UK.
Though while EE does have a head start the marketing machine is not really capitalising on this, the EE and Orange websites cross-link when looking for broadband packages, and many people are not aware that EE also markets ADSL2+ broadband, and with the site still heavily promoting deals that ended on 30th November 2012 it looks more like a small business operation where the single web developer is on holiday.