EE is currently the largest UK network by subscriber numbers, formed by the merger of the UK Orange and T-Mobile UK networks. They are also the first UK network to launch a 4G LTE network, thanks to the UK government deciding to give them a licence almost a year before the other UK networks. EE have been rolling out their network across the United Kingdom and taking advantage of their early launch by rolling out higher speed networks. They’ve released a plan to trial a Cat 10 4G LTE network next year, which is capable of running at up to a theoretical 450 Mbps – that’s three times the speed of the current Cat 6 4G LTE network. However, EE are still working on launching Cat 9 LTE to the UK – the network is working on showcasing their Cat 9 network at Wembley Stadium next year and it’s currently undergoing trials.
An EE spokesperson said this on the matter: “we’ll be demonstrating Cat 9 on our network at Wembley Stadium in the next couple of months, and Cat 10 will be next – we’re intending to test in mid-2015. We’re staying at the forefront of chipset developments so that we can keep getting the best out of our network and keep delivering the world’s fastest 4G speeds for our customers.” EE currently uses Cat 6 LTE for it’s “4G+” service, which is rated at up to 300 Mbps and that combines two LTE carriers in aggregation, compared with Cat 10, which will combine three LTE carriers. EE is confident that it’ll be the first UK carrier to bring Cat 10 to the market, but as I’ll come on to explain, they do have something of an advantage here! To explain how LTE carrier aggregation works, this is a means of combining spectrum across different frequencies. EE’s 4G+ network combines 20 MHz of 1,800 MHz spectrum with 20 MHz of 2,600 MHz spectrum, whereas Cat 9 LTE service will combine 20 MHz of 1,800 MHz spectrum, 20 MHz of 2,600 MHz spectrum and another 15 MHz of 2,600 MHz spectrum. Because of the way spectrum is allocated between the different carriers, this means that only EE and Vodafone are able to benefit from the new technologies.
EE’s march on their competitors could upset the UK market, which currently means customers who want the highest speed LTE coverage must move to their network, rather than 3UK, O2 or Vodafone. It’ll be interesting to see how EE’s coverage and tariffs are adjusted for the newer high speed network and how the competition heat up. But really… Isn’t it time the UK allows greater spectrum divided up between these carriers?