BT's EE to refarm 2G spectrum for 4G

Over the next six months, the UK’s largest operator will convert sites in London, Birmingham, Manchester, Edinburgh and Cardiff, in order to support mobile devices running on Cat 12 and Cat 16 modems.

The upgrade will double the output on these sites, with upload speeds expected to rise from a maximum of 50Mbps up to 100Mbps on relevant smartphones. EE claims the number of these devices in use is set to boom in 2017.

The operator will refarm 10MHz of 1800MHz spectrum from 2G to 4G as part of the upgrade, whilst also deploying 4x4 MIMO and 256QAM technology in order to increase the efficiency of its spectrum.

The move will see EE expand its UK footprint of 4G+ sites, which support Cat 9 speeds of above 400Mbps, to more than 1,000 sites overall.

Marc Allera, EE CEO, said: “We keep investing in our network, and using our technology leadership to make sure customers are getting the most out of the latest smartphones. Customers need to be on 4G, getting the best out of their new devices with the highest quality phone calls and the fastest mobile data speeds. 

“We’re converting 2G into 4G, because that’s what our customers need. So if you are choosing a new smartphone, the message is simple: there’s only one UK network that offers the best smartphone experience.”

The move is similar to a number of operators in other markets who have refarmed, or in some cases shut off, their 2G networks. AT&T did this at the start of the year, while T-Mobile US has also said it will switch off 2G. Mobile operators are desperately seeking ways to boost 4G spectrum holdings in order to compete with greater demand for data.