EE to convert its 3G spectrum to 4G in readiness for 5G

Operator to launch 5G services next year

EE is to convert a large chunk of its 3G spectrum to 4G in order to lay the foundations of its 5G services which it hopes to launch in 2019.

The mobile operator will convert over 500 towers from 3G to 4G over the next six months to "enable the maximum performance on the top smartphones being released in 2018, as more customers demand high-speed mobile data connections". This news comes as Apple launches its new iPhone XS, XS Max, and XR.

It said that the conversion of 3G spectrum at 2100MHz to 4G would give upgraded sites five carriers' of 4G more than any other UK operator. It added that the latest smartphones can support connections to all five of those carriers' at the same time, with 5CA' which is a new smartphone technology.

The mobile towers that will be upgraded are spread mainly across urban areas, such as London, Birmingham, Manchester, Bristol, Exeter, Hull, Nottingham, Edinburgh, Glasgow, Cardiff and Belfast.

EE said it would be switching on its 5G network in 2019. 5G sites will be built on top of the upgraded sites with the maximum amount of 4G spectrum, it added.

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Marc Allera, CEO of BT's Consumer business, said that EE would be using its investment it made in 3G spectrum nearly 15 years ago "to give customers today a great experience with the latest smartphones on 4G and build our foundation for 5G in 2019".

"We're constantly evolving, and the customer experience of 5G will be dictated by the quality of the 4G network underneath," he said.

EE added that 3G usage on its network was "reducing rapidly" and for the first-time customers were making more calls on 4g than 3G.

Mobile operators are slowly killing off 3G. Earlier this year, as reported by IT Pro, Three announced that it would be ditching its 3G handsets and will now only sell 4G-enabled devices going forward.

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