BT’s mobile business EE launches new Spectrum into 5G network, as auction concludes

  • BT’s mobile business, EE, more than doubles 5G spectrum holdings in Ofcom auction to drive high performance 5G further and faster across the UK
  • EE first to launch 700MHz spectrum at trial locations and will shortly begin the roll out of additional 3.6GHz capacity
  • New holdings boost network leadership as EE passes one million active 5G customers

BT’s mobile business, EE, has finalised new 5G spectrum holdings following the conclusion of the second, assignment stage of Ofcom’s auction and will start to launch some of the new spectrum into the 5G network immediately. EE was first to launch 5G, in May 2019, and won 80MHz overall of the 700MHz and 3.6GHz bands that were on offer in the auction.[i]

EE secured 40MHz of 3.6GHz spectrum, doubling current holdings. As the launch band for 5G, 3.4-3.8GHz allows for exceptionally high performance and capacity in areas with denser populations and can be accessed by all 5G handsets. EE has already carried out work on a number of sites to allow the new spectrum to launch soon. EE also secured 20MHz of paired and a further 20MHz of unpaired 700MHz spectrum. 700MHz is new to 5G services in the UK but already used extensively in Europe, and is supported on recent key customer handsets, including the iPhone 12 and Samsung Galaxy S21. It will support wider and deeper 5G coverage, including indoors, and help deliver better capacity overall. EE will roll out the 20MHz of paired spectrum extensively over the years ahead and begins trials of the spectrum on a small number of new sites this week.

Marc Allera, CEO Consumer Division, BT, said: “Spectrum is the most vital investment a mobile network can make; the more a network has, the better the experience it can deliver. We’re pleased to have secured significant new capacity for the EE network at an excellent price. Combined with our existing portfolio, this new acquisition of valuable low and mid frequency spectrum will mean the EE network is set up well for the future, and can continue to provide customers with the best and most extensive 5G network in the UK.”

Overall, BT Group, bidding through their mobile business EE Ltd, invested £452m to secure the new spectrum last month before placing “assignment bids” with Ofcom and taking part in negotiations with other networks to establish the exact in-band position of the newly won capacity. EE has secured positions within the respective spectrum bands for an additional £23m cost, taking the total investment to £475m, and will launch some new spectrum into the 5G network immediately. EE retains the flexibility to make a future spectrum trade, to obtain full contiguity for the holdings.

The new capacity will help support a growing customer base across BT Group, with EE alone now passing one million active 5G users.[ii] EE continues to rollout 5G out to new places and remains the only UK network to set minimum coverage criteria before announcing 5G in a new location.[iii]

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About EE

EE runs the UK's biggest and fastest mobile network, offering superfast connections in more places than any other operator. EE brought the first 4G network to the UK in October 2012, and launched the UK’s first 5G network in May 2019.

EE has received extensive independent recognition, including being named the UK’s no.1 5G network by RootMetrics® in 2020 and 2021, and the UK's best network every year since 2014 for the following awards: The Mobile Choice Awards, The Mobile Industry Awards and by RootMetrics®.

As well as delivering mobile services to consumers, small and medium businesses, corporate customers and Government programmes, EE also provides home and business broadband using both 4G and fixed line connections.

EE is committed to being number one for service in the industry, and has nearly 600 shops across the UK. EE remains the only mobile provider to answer 100% of customer calls in the UK and Ireland and was recognised as the UK’s Best Large Contact Centre by the UK Customer Experience Awards 2018 and Welsh Contact Centre Awards 2019. EE was awarded The Sunday Times’ Best 100 Companies to Work for in 2018 and 2019, as well as being named Best Employer 2018 by the European Contact Centre & Customer Service awards.

EE is part of BT’s Consumer business unit which provides products and services to all of BT’s consumer customers in the UK.

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[i] Overall, EE Ltd secured 20MHz of new paired 700MHz spectrum and 40MHz of 3.6-3.8GHz spectrum in the recent auction. It also bought 20MHz of additional, ‘unpaired’ 700MHz spectrum that can only provide downlink capabilities, for £4mn. The spectrum, which will need to be paired with another carrier for uplink and which is not currently supported by devices on the market, presents a longer-term strategic opportunity.

[ii] ‘Active’ 5G customers are defined as those that are actively able to use EE’s 5G network, as they have both the right plan and a 5G-enabled device. EE has 2.1 million ‘5G ready’ customers (as of 31st December 2020).

[iii] EE only announces a new 5G location when there are meaningful levels of 5G coverage there. At this stage in EE’s 5G rollout, the criteria which needs to be met incudes: a minimum population of 10,000 people, 5G coverage to a least a third of that local population, and coverage in the town/city centre.