EE boss Swantee urges acceleration in rollout of 4G networks


CEO addresses Chancellor George Osborne at awards ceremony, and warns that a lack of urgency is seeing the UK falling behind

Everything Everywhere CEO Olaf Swantee has appealed for the rollout of 4G technology in the UK to be sped up, and warned that the UK could fall behind other countries if more urgency isn’t shown.

Swantee was speaking at the Orange National Business Awards at the Grosvenor House Hotel in London last night (November 8), where he addressed Chancellor George Osborne as well as the 1,100 entrepreneurs and business leaders in attendance.

He said that the UK needs to do more to kick-start the economy and to do that, UK businesses need a “21st century digital infrastructure”.

“Having recently worked in several European markets, I am surprised to see here how the debate around connectivity, despite the Government’s very recent interest, focuses overwhelmingly on fixed and home based access to the internet,” he said.

“Access to data is no new thing, but, for us, this evolution to the new internet requires a step change in enabling technology. A new technology that will see faster data speeds, reduced waiting times, and an increase in capacity and coverage that will benefit everyone. 4th Generation mobile telephony, as it’s known, is critical to the creation of tomorrow’s business infrastructure.

“It’s essential, because fundamental to growth in any economy is the infrastructure behind it. Just as the industrial revolution would not have succeeded without the roads and railways, so the digital revolution will only succeed if we invest in the highways of the future – our new modern mobile networks.”

Everything Everywhere and BT Wholesale announced last month that it had begun trialling 4G LTE mobile broadband over a 25 km² area centred on St. Newlyen East in South Newquay, using 10MHz of test 800MHz spectrum.

The companies said the area had low or no broadband connectivity, with the trial designed to test how 4G technology works in the real world.

Swantee said the trial shows what is possible. He added initial results have been “extremely encouraging”, with people and businesses in remote areas who were unable to connect to the internet via broadband now able to do things in more places than ever before.

He said he was certain that 4G could not only act as a genuine solution to provide access for hard to reach areas, but would also provide the boost to urban mobile networks needed to support businesses and enabling them to compete.

However Swantee warned that the UK is risking falling behind the likes of Scandinavia, Germany and the USA – all of whom have rolled out future networks – unless more urgency is shown in rolling out 4G.

“Let’s be clear – if the UK economy is to continue to compete globally then we need a modern digital infrastructure to keep businesses on track, and we need it soon.

“This affects everybody in the room, the way you work, and the way your business runs. That’s why we’re urging the Government, the regulator, and the major competitors to move forward with the 4G network auctions as soon as possible.

“4G will help drive growth for UK businesses and the economy. It can create businesses and opportunities that we haven’t even thought of yet. It will give entrepreneurs the infrastructure to create the new Googles; the new Amazons; the new Oranges. It will challenge traditional business models and the way people trade.

“Quite simply, the digital revolution is a fundamental part of a future Britain’s new economy – and it’s only just beginning.”