As Ofcom announces that it will be performing its own independent 4G network testing, O2 has confirmed that its 4G network now covers a third of the UK population indoors, equating to around 20 million people. The network has rolled out 4G in 191 towns and cities, and suggests that its coverage extends to 41% of the population outdoors.
O2’s news about its growing 4G coverage was part of a larger announcement about its nationwide network modernisation programme. This is an ambitious infrastructure improvement project which aims to upgrade around a quarter of O2’s 2G and 3G masts by the end of the year. The goals of this network modernisation are to provide an uplift in call quality and overall network experience, particularly focussing on call and data connectivity in high usage areas and at peak usage times. Improvements will take place on a site-by-site basis and may include replacing fibre connections, radio equipment, remote monitoring devices, and antennas.
It isn’t only 4G coverage that will see a major investment; 2G and 3G are also areas for improvement. O2 has committed to spending around £16 million to provide 3G data coverage to areas that have never had it before. The network has defined 200 specific locations for this expansion, meaning that customers in these locations will be able to make use of mobile e-mail and internet browsing for the first time although they will not have the speed of 4G. O2 will also be continuing to invest in 2G which is necessary to power the growing M2M industry.
According to Derek McManus, COO of Telefonica UK (O2), “Last year we launched our 4G network and undertook the fastest network roll-out in the history of our company. This year we’re continuing that roll-out and concurrently modernising our 2G and 3G networks. Building a great network isn’t just about bringing faster speeds to people that already have coverage. It’s vital that we also bring seamless coverage to people that have never had it before. Investment in all layers of our network is key to ensuring customers receive a great experience, whether that’s in streaming live goals in the pub or receiving critical business information.”
O2 launched its 4G network alongside Vodafone, with whom it forms a partnership to share the basic parts of its network infrastructure. Since the launch in August 2013, O2 has gained over a million 4G customers. O2’s 4G customers used more data in the network’s first six months than the whole O2 network carried from 2000 to 2008, which illustrates the high demand for ultra-fast mobile internet.
In the controversial Rootmetrics Scorecard that was recently published for the various 4G networks, O2 didn’t fare quite as well as EE, who came top in every category, but did considerably better than Vodafone, who were last in most categories. O2 came second for network speed, texts, and calls, and third for overall performance, mobile internet, and network reliability. In general its performance was seen to be similar to the newest 4G network, Three.