UK MOBILE OPERATOR EE has announced plans to use 'micro network' technology to bring voice, 3G and 4G services to 1,500 rural communities across the country by 2017, shunning the government's proposed national roaming plans.
EE announced plans on Tuesday to invest in micro network technology to bring voice and mobile internet to the remaining unconnected areas of the UK.
The technology, designed by Parallel Wireless, connects small mobile antennas to a suitable nearby macro site, without the need for cabling or a fixed broadband connection.
The micro network can connect communities of around 100-150 homes and businesses across an area of 0.5 square miles with three or four small antennas which take just a few hours to install.
The technology has already been trialled successfully with 347 residents in the Cumbria village of Sebergham, where locals are currently enjoying 3G download speeds of around 7Mbps.
Mansoor Hanif, director of radio access networks and programmes at EE, said: "The UK is a beautiful country, but this makes it difficult to reach 100 percent coverage.
"We think our micro network addresses this challenge. The cost of building a new mast comes in at around £150,000, so we've been trying to tailor coverage specifically where it's needed using smaller base stations."
Hanif added that 3G is available now, and that 4G support will arrive in the next few weeks.
Once LTE is supported, Hanif said that "some places will be able to take advantage of 150Mbps speeds shared by the local community, while others can expect speeds between 20Mbps and 30Mbps".
EE's micro network plans see the company providing its own solution to improving rural coverage, shunning national roaming plans proposed by the government which could force operators to share networks.
Hanif said: "The government's national roaming plans involve covering places where people don't live.
"We didn't design our network to cover places where people don't live, so we'd much rather invest in this micro network technology which will benefit many more people than national roaming."
EE said previously that, if plans for national roaming were to go ahead, it could delay 4G rollouts across the country by two years. µ
But it keeps the juicy details firmly under wraps
And Sonny and Cher is on the radio
Gets its post-Windows 7 towel on the sun-lounger