EE is to deploy a technology solution from early next year that could significantly improve the economics of mobile network coverage in hard-to-reach parts of the UK, claims the operator.
The operator will be hoping the solution — developed by US firm Parallel Wireless — provides a way forward in the politically-charged debate over rural coverage.
The technology has the potential to change the economics of mobile coverage by removing the need to install large masts and fixed broadband or cabling in out-of-the-way locations.
Instead Parallel’s technology relies on small antennas that connect to the nearest macro site via a wireless link.
EE will start to deploy the technology in early 2015. It estimates that the solution will bring reliable voice and high speed mobile broadband to “more than 1,500 places for the first time by 2017”.
“We’ve been working closely with government on the long-term ambition to bring voice coverage to more of the UK, and we believe that this world-first technology will demonstrate significant advancements against that vision,” said EE CEO Olaf Swantee.
The technology has already been successfully trialled in the village of Sebergham in Cumbria. All 129 households and small businesses received data and voice connectivity from three meshed antennae.
The UK government is looking into the possibility of introducing national roaming to improve rural coverage. But this proposal is strongly opposed by operators who have come up with alternative suggestions for how inaccessible parts of the country could be reached.