The Government needs to improve the ‘archaic’ rules for rolling out networks, the CEO of EE has claimed.
In a speech earlier this week, when he switched on a 4G network across Cumbria, Olaf Swantee said the Government needs to think beyond fixed line in bringing internet coverage to rural areas. However, to do this, he said the Government needs to relax existing rules. He said: ‘Our infrastructure rollout is also governed by the archaic Electronic Communications Code - a piece of legislation that is 30 years old, written three years before the first mobile phone call was made in the UK. Unsurprisingly, it’s in need of significant modernisation.’
Speaking to Mobile, David Salem, EE’s director for network strategy, said mobile was a more sensible and cost effective replacement for fixed line broadband. He said: ‘It’s been surprising how many small businesses have shown an interest. This is quite a big opportunity for us.’
He added that the Government’s scheme for bringing broadband to rural areas, BDUK, needs to look to mobile. He said: ‘It’s a lot cheaper than fixed to bring connectivity to the last few percent of the population. It’s fundamentally a better technology to fill those last few gaps.’
EE will turn its attention to Bodmin Moor in the south west of England next, with the target of turning the area on by summer 2014. Salem said work has already begun on that project, with the operator also aiming to bring coverage to an additional 100 mile area across Cumbria by March 2014.
Elsewhere in his speech, Swantee repeated his criticisms about proposed changes to the money it pays the Government to use spectrum each year. He said: ‘Under the proposals EE will be asked to pay an additional £82m annually to run the network – that is the equivalent of the investment required to switch on all of Wales, or over 80 areas like the Northern Fells – every single year. We’ve already said that if the current proposal progresses, we will be forced to re-evaluate our 98% coverage target for the end of next year, and sparsely populated rural areas are, as we all know, at risk the most. So we ask that Ofcom and the Government show some sense and support policies that encourage investment, both on annual licence fees, and reform of the ECC.’