Embracing the power of modern mobile networks


By Greg McCall, Chief Networks Officer

In the last five years we have undertaken a record expansion of our EE mobile network across every corner of the UK, enhancing connectivity for millions of customers.  Our 4G network alone has expanded by more than 10,000 square kilometres in that time - equivalent to more than 26 times the size of the Isle of Wight.

Through careful planning and by prioritising investment in expanding our 4G and 5G networks, with a particular focus on rural communities, we have been able to responsibly begin our 3G retirement process in north Wales this month - a significant milestone in the evolution of Britain’s mobile infrastructure.

I have previously written about enhancements we have made to the radio technology used in our mobile network to give customers a better day-to-day experience once 3G has been retired. With those in place, we adopted the same approach we took for our successful pilot in Warrington last year and were able to smoothly decommission the 3G network across the north of Wales.

Those 3G customers who had no desire or need for 4G mobile data continued to seamlessly use our 2G network for calls and texts. As anticipated, this resulted in a small natural rise in 2G voice traffic (c. 10%) in the region when compared to the week immediately prior to the switch off. This uplift has had no detrimental impact on call setup success rate or network accessibility. In fact, there have been no related performance or congestion issues on our 2G, 4G, or 5G networks in the region post switch-off.

Importantly, our customer care teams have been on hand to support those who needed advice. While only a handful of customers called our support centre, most of those who did already have a 4G-compatible phone but simply had 4G Calling turned off in their settings. As a reminder, any EE customer unsure if their phone is 4G-compatible can text HANDSET to 150 for free to find out.

A welcome boost for Wales

The fact our 4G and 5G connectivity is so widespread has enabled most of our customers to easily transition away from outdated 3G technology. It has also meant the north of Wales is the first area to take an important step towards all the benefits modern mobile networks provide.

This is welcome news for local business leaders in the region, including those at M-SParc, a leading science park and innovation hub for the north of Wales, located in Gaerwen on Anglesey. It opened in 2018 with support from a range of partners, including Bangor University.

M-SParc science park in Anglesey

Speaking about the importance of mobile connectivity, Pryderi ap Rhisiart, Managing Director at M-SParc, said: “4G and 5G, and the next generation of mobile technology, will continue to transform the way we live and work. It is vital for business growth that companies and innovation hubs like ours have access to these latest generation mobile networks. That goes for whether you are in a busy city centre or in a rural location.

“The big tech developments, from artificial intelligence and autonomous vehicles, to connected IoT devices and data analytics, are all going to rely on fast, reliable connectivity. At M-SParc, we are working on a range of new innovations which require the bandwidth modern networks provide, including an Augmented Reality experience on site where users can learn about M-SParc as they walk around the park. The latest mobile networks and technology will open new opportunities for sectors like agriculture, healthcare, and autonomous vehicles. It is very important therefore that we're connected to the latest networks to keep innovating and pushing the boundaries.”

Dawn of a new era

One of the major benefits of retiring outdated 3G technology that fewer people are using, is that we can reuse the network spectrum – which is a finite resource – to enhance our 4G and 5G performance across the UK, making the everyday mobile experience for our customers even more reliable, sustainable, secure, and much faster. Our aim is to enable a 5G ‘on demand’ connection anywhere beyond our permanent network in the UK by 2028.

So, while retiring 3G may be a small, but significant step forward for all those in the north of Wales, it is the start of a giant leap forward for our customers, the environment, and wider economy as the UK fully embraces the power of modern mobile technologies.

If you or a family member would like more information or advice on 3G retirement, including the dedicated support we have put in place (which includes free 4G-ready mobile phones for vulnerable 3G customers), please visit www.ee.co.uk/3g-switch-off, call 150, or head to your nearest EE store today.

3G Facts and Figures

0.28% - the percentage of data download traffic 3G is responsible for on the entire EE mobile network.

2.7% - the amount of time EE customers spend connected to 3G according to Ofcom – the lowest amount of time of any UK mobile operator by far.

99% - the percentage of the UK population already covered by EE’s reliable 4G network.

10,000 - the number of square kilometres EE’s 4G network has been expanded by in the last five years, since we first announced our intention to retire our 3G technology.

150 - the number to call if you have any concerns about 3G retirement and how it may impact you.