Everything Everywhere – the UK’s largest operator and a joint venture of Orange and T-Mobile – today announced its new consumer brand EE and pledged to launch LTE services in 16 cities by Christmas.
Proclaiming itself to be “the UK’s only 4G mobile service” (thanks to a controversial decision last month by UK regulator Ofcom to allow the operator to refarm its 1800MHz spectrum for early LTE services), EE has today switched on LTE in London, Bristol, Cardiff and Birmingham for testing, in readiness for customer launch “in the coming weeks.”
EE says its LTE network will cover a third of the UK population in 2012 (over 20 million people), with 2013 population coverage to reach 70 percent, and 98 percent in 2014. The 16 cities to be connected by the end of this year are London, Edinburgh, Cardiff, Belfast, Birmingham, Bristol, Derby, Glasgow, Hull, Leeds, Liverpool, Manchester, Newcastle, Nottingham, Sheffield and Southampton.
Over 700 EE-branded stores are to open, and the operator says the new EE stores – formerly Orange and T-Mobile shops – will serve customers of all three brands. “The new EE brand will stand alongside Orange and T-Mobile,” noted a company statement, although it appears that these brands will eventually fade, as the company added that by the end of the year all 27 million Orange/T-Mobile customers in the UK will be using the EE network.
The firm also talked up its retail strategy, stating that it will be “the only operator to offer dedicated expertise based around device operating systems.” And on the subject of devices, EE outlined its initial portfolio of LTE smartphones, including Samsung’s Galaxy SIII, the new Nokia Lumia 920 and 820 handsets, the HTC One XL and Huawei’s Ascend P1. A new iPhone may be added to this list should Apple announce support tomorrow for the 1800MHz band in its latest device.
EE’s new strategy will also see it offer fixed-line fibre broadband services, which will be available to 11 million households and businesses by the end of the year, reaching two-thirds of UK households and businesses by the end of 2014.
EE’s chief rivals O2 and Vodafone were initially angered by Ofcom's decision to give EE a headstart in launching LTE, but the Financial Times today reports that EE, Vodafone, Three and O2 have signed a stand-still agreement that will prevent any legal action for a month while talks are held to help all proceed with 4G plans. A full auction of 800/2600 MHz LTE spectrum is expected to take place in December.