EE's Rural Small Antenna Networks Ask "Who Needs National Roaming?"

By Gerald Lynch on at

The government's plans for a UK wide "national roaming" scheme, one that would allow mobile users to jump between mobile network operators as a means to avoid coverage black spots, has split opinion. While the combined reach of the major UK networks could massively increase coverage for some users, the networks (though on paper compliant) have argued that it may introduce more problems than it fixes (as highlighted in this EE-commissioned report).

EE is working on an alternative all of its own to help customers in rural areas on its network and, essentially, undermine the need for national roaming. It's today unveiled its "micro networks", which use small linked antennas to boost coverage in areas that struggle to get solid mobile connections. They act as a stop-gap before building a traditional mast, amplifying the signal from wherever EE's nearest existing tower is.

Kicking off trials in the Cumbrian village of Sebergham, three or four antennas should be able to support a 0.5 square mile area or, as EE estimates, between 100 and 150 homes. EE plans to connect 1,500 rural communities using the micro networks over the next three years -- though many will hope that these are not installed instead of a fully-fledged mast.