Strategy aims to all but eliminate not-spot areas in the UK as newly promoted CEO Mark Allera lays down gauntlet to its network rivals
EE plans to expand 4G coverage to 95 per cent of the UK as it aims to create 600 new customer service jobs across the country.
The network will be creating 750 new sites to support the rollout. It will focus on tackling ‘not spots’ and expanding geographical coverage from 60 per cent to 95 per cent by the next decade.
EE CEO Marc Allera said: “For the average smartphone user, not-spots aren’t tolerated and 2G doesn’t deliver what they need. Customers want 4G speeds everywhere they go, and mobile operators are too used to saying ‘no’ to new coverage. Today, I’m saying ‘yes’, with an ambition to go further than any operator has ever gone, and with the ultimate aim of covering the whole UK with 4G.
Its 4G Calling service will also be rolled out across the rest of the UK from July. It is already live in London, Birmingham, Bristol, Manchester, Edinburgh, Glasgow, Belfast, Leeds and Newcastle.
In addition to the rollout, EE is creating 600 customer service rolls that will enable it to handle all of its customer calls in the UK and Ireland by the end of this year. Over 100 of these new roles will be in North Tyneside, Merthyr, Plymouth and Ireland by the end of June 2016. The location of the remaining 500 will be announced by the second half of this year.
It’s part of a continued move by EE to bring its entire customer service operation back to the UK. In 2014, the operator admitted customers were becoming frustrated with the quality of its customers service, moving 1,000 roles back to the UK from India. EE was ranked third most complained about network operator by Ofcom in a recent customer service survey. Vodafone topped the list of complaints whilst Talk Mobile was second.
“We’re bringing 100 per cent of our EE customer service calls back to the UK and Ireland. We’ve already seen a major boost in customer satisfaction by creating 1,400 new service jobs here since 2014. Now we’re creating 600 additional jobs to handle all EE customer service calls in the UK and Ireland by the end of this year, providing the best possible experience for our customers.”
CCS Insight operators principal analyst Kester Mann claims the target will only add pressure to the other networks. He said: “EE’s ambition is highly commendable. No other operator has ever set such a target and the move will heap further pressure on rivals, which have failed to make in-roads into its dominance in LTE.
“One of the motivations behind today’s announcement is likely to have been the Emergency Services contract awarded by the government in December 2015. The operator had previously acknowledged the need to expand LTE coverage to meet the stringent requirements of this contract and was already committed to investing in more than 500 new LTE sites.
“A focus on geographic coverage will only increase as the industry moves into the era of the Internet of Things, innovations such as connected cars become a reality and use of mobile video accelerates.”
Global Wireless Solutions CEO Paul Carter warned that terms such as “landmass” could be misleading, and said operators need to work at cutting out notspots in urban areas as well as rural locations.
“By using terms like ‘landmass’ EE is implying that this investment will results in a coverage extension on top of its current network,” Carter. “Network footprint expansion is definitely necessary, but operators must not forget that their networks in cities and dense urban areas do not provide 100 per cent coverage. During network testing we have undertaken this year in London, Liverpool and Manchester alone we identified not-spots in shopping centres, tourist areas, train stations and other area where hundreds of thousands of people want to use their phones daily.”
“Mobile network operators should be allowed some of the benefits that utilities are given like easy access to sites on private land and affordable leases. The government also announced earlier this year that operators would soon be able to build masts 25 metres high without planning permission, something which would improve network coverage greatly. Regulation reform is increasingly necessary as it is currently holding back crucial developments of the UK’s wireless capabilities, which could have a serious knock back on UK businesses.”