Providing increased coverage to the UK’s road network is a key part of EE’s 4G plans, as illustrated both by their ambitious targets and the recent launch of their in-car 4G product, the Buzzard.
An EE task force has been hard at work increasing network coverage on the UK’s road network for the past few months. EE has identified between 70 and 80 roads – both motorways and A-roads – that would benefit from improved coverage, from the M74 in Scotland to the M3 that links London and Southampton.
The first aim of the task force was to maximise 3G provision along these routes, ensuring continuous connectivity and making dropped calls a thing of the past. They expected to be able to reach speeds of 3-4 Mbps with 3G, which is slow compared with high speed 4G but is probably sufficient to use a streaming service such as the BBC iPlayer.
The second phase of the plan was to ensure 4G coverage along 70-80% of these roads by the end of the year. This is an ambitious target given that it will require installing infrastructure in areas of low population density – which is hard to justify financially. Earlier in the year just 50% of 50 of the chosen roads benefitted from 4G coverage and this was largely due to the roads passing through urban areas where 4G from EE had already been rolled out.
So who will benefit from 4G coverage on UK roads?
Given the ban on mobile use while driving, focussing on providing 4G on road networks might seem a little odd, but there are plenty of benefits to having 4G coverage on the road.
- Drivers will be able to use their car kits to make voice calls safe in the knowledge that these won’t drop out half way through a conversation. They can also make use of online services such as Spotify and Google Maps which are increasingly being built into car dashboards.
- Passengers will be able to while away the miles by checking e-mail, updating Facebook, streaming music or movies, and shopping online. This will be ideal for those that are working in the car rather than driving, and parents trying to keep fractious children amused on long journeys.
For today’s ‘always-on’ consumer, having 4G connectivity in the car – a place where they spend so much time – is becoming essential. As well as the road network, EE is also providing 4G at airports, on train lines, and in the Eurotunnel.
Providing the equipment to use 4G
It’s all very well providing 4G coverage along the road network, but EE has also released a product that will help you to use it. We’ve already looked at the EE Buzzard, the UK’s first in-car 4G router that turns the car into a 4G hotspot for up to ten devices to connect to. The bright yellow Buzzard plugs into the car’s power socket and fits neatly into a cup holder, but it is only the first in what is expected to be a long line of higher spec in-car 4G devices from EE.