EE extends lead on O2, Vodafone and Three, analysts say

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Analysts have said EE’s decision to double 4G spectrum and speeds means it has “raised the bar” for other UK operators

EE has extended its lead over rival UK operators with its announcement today that it will double 4G speeds on its network, analysts have said.

This summer EE will double the amount of 1800MHz spectrum dedicated to 4G, from 10MHz to 20MHz. Today it said this will allow it to double speeds to over 80Mbps, initially in Birmingham, Bristol, Cardiff, Edinburgh, Glasgow, Leeds, Liverpool, London, Manchester and Sheffield.

Informa chief research officer Mark Newman said EE’s move means the operator has “taken the necessary steps to maintain and extend its advantage in the UK 4G market.”

He also said EE’s doubling of speeds means it will “leapfrog” to a leading position in the European 4G market.

Ovum telecoms regulation analyst Matthew Howett said EE’s strategy will make it more difficult for Vodafone, O2 and Three to catch up when they launch 4G services in future. Vodafone and O2 are expected to launch 4G in the summer, while Three has said it will wait until the end of the year.

Howett said the doubling of spectrum means EE can increase its user base without compromising on customer experience.

On EE’s target of one million customers by the end of 2013, Howett said this indicated it was “perhaps just under half way there – a number that is probably more than most had expected at this stage.”

CCS Insight senior analyst for operators Kester Mann said EE has “raised the bar for competitors Vodafone and O2”, adding if it reaches its one million target it would “rapidly close the gap” of European 4G carriers.

Mann warned EE to make the benefits of its network improvements “crystal clear” to consumers, staying away from discussion of volumes and speeds and focusing instead of HD Video, multi-tasking and corporate services – experiences that will be improved with faster speeds.

uSwitch telecoms expert Ernest Doku said the improvements in speed could be a “double-edged sword” for consumers, who could see their data bills increase.

“EE will need to ensure that entry-level tariffs will be generous enough in their data, or even more compelling in their pricing, to convince consumers to switch,” he said.

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