EE goes hard on 5G and BT to launch fully converged network

philip jansen BT.jpg

BT has unveiled plans to offer high performance 5G across the UK and to combine its mobile, Wi-Fi and fibre infrastructures to deliver the “UK’s first fully converged network”.

“BT has set out a comprehensive vision for its network and is evidence of joined-up thinking across its businesses. It establishes some aggressive targets for fundamentals such as network coverage on both the mobile and fixed-line network, as well as a roadmap towards yet-to-be-defined service areas,”  said Richard Webb, director of network infrastructure at CCS Insight.

Specifically, EE, BT’s mobile business unit, will extend the coverage of BT’s mobile network and driving 4G connectivity deeper into rural areas by adding over 4,500 square miles of new signal by 2025. At the same time, EE’s 5G network will increase to cover half of the UK population by early 2023.

Using the expanded 4G infrastructure, 5G will pass the geographic reach of 4G to become the “UK’s largest digital network by 2028”, providing signal to over 90% of UK landmass. BT will also leverage the new 700MHz 5G spectrum it secured in Ofcom’s auction deploying it across the majority of EE sites, delivering stronger indoor and wider rural coverage.

“Over the past 18 months we’ve helped the UK to meet the demands of a pandemic. We must now look ahead to deliver the strongest foundations to drive future growth,” said Philip Jansen (pictured), chief executive of BT Group.

“We’re making a uniquely ambitious, long-term commitment to drive high performance 5G further and faster, and to integrate it at the core with our fibre network for a seamless customer experience. Openreach was first to fibre, EE was first to 5G and together BT will be first to a fully converged future.”

At the same time, BT is also adding greater air and space technologies, including drones and Low Earth Orbit (LEO) satellites, Following on from its recent agreement with OneWeb “the plans offer the most comprehensive and versatile mobile network in the UK”, according to the company.

On the technology side of things, BT will deploy a new 5G core network control system by 2023, built on BT’s distributed network cloud infrastructure, which will use increased machine learning will be used to predict and resolve issues before they affect customers and automatically route services through the best available connection.  

“The extended mobile coverage and enhanced capacity will be good news for consumers, and the option for on-demand connectivity is a smart way of allocating resources on a more ad-hoc basis in line with demand,” added Webb.

“The 5G Standalone roll-out is also exciting as this gets to the more advanced capabilities of the network from which new user experiences can be created—it will potentially be a platform for things such as virtual reality/augmented reality services as just one example.”

3G services will also be retired, with customers across BT brands phased off 3G by 2023, over the years 3G usage has been in decline making up less than 2% of data traffic over the EE network, and the spectrum will be repurposed to enhance 5G capacity in the future.

BT confirms that it spending more than £60 million a year on security-focused research into cutting-edge technologies such as AI and Quantum Key Distribution, as well as innovations such as hollow core fibre.