Mobile operator EE (BT) has today confirmed that they’ve begun the process of re-farming (converting) their existing 3G mobile services in the 2100MHz radio spectrum band, which means that they can instead be used to help boost 4G data (Mobile Broadband) speeds and reliability.
At present the existing LTE-Advanced (4G+) standard already supports Carrier Aggregation technology, which allows operators to combine spectrum from multiple different bands in order to improve data speeds (e.g. 2.6GHz, 1800MHz, 800MHz etc.). By re-farming the 2100MHz 3G band to 4G they will thus be able to support Five Carrier Aggregation (5CA) or the combination of five different bands at once.
Demand for mobile data is constantly on the rise and this is one way to help tackle that increase, which unsurprisingly means that the first locations to benefit will be “hotspots” of high demand (e.g. London, Birmingham, Manchester, Bristol, Exeter, Hull, Nottingham, Edinburgh, Glasgow, Cardiff and Belfast).
The operator plans to begin converting the 2100MHz band into 4G at more than 500 mobile towers over the next 6 months.
Many of the latest 4G Smartphones released during 2018, plus a few during 2017, can already support the use of 5CA. In theory this may also be enough to help support Gigabit(1000Mbps+) class LTE / 4G speeds, albeit only under ideal circumstances (most of the time users share capacity and so you’re unlikely to experience this in the real-world); plus you don’t strictly need 5CA for Gigabit speeds but it helps.
EE also hopes to become one of the first in the country to begin a limited commercial deployment of 5G or partial 5G services toward the end of 2019 (here), although the big roll-out won’t follow until Ofcom has released all of the needed spectrum in 2020 (not to mention the small matter of limited hardware support). The first 5G services are also more likely to be fixed wireless links instead of mobile ones and large-scale trials should start soon.
Finally, the operator claims that 3G usage on their UK network is “reducing rapidly“, not least since customers are increasingly making more of their calls over 4G (VoLTE) or WiFi (Wi-Fi Calling) based solutions.Read More