EE is currently turning on additional 800MHz spectrum to boost indoor coverage across the UK. However, this additional spectrum has not been made available to their MVNO partners, including their parent company’s MVNO BT Mobile.
The 800MHz spectrum deployment began in late November with 700 sites going live, with a further 3,000 expected to turn on the new bands by the end of 2017. Because of its low frequency, the spectrum not only travels further, but also is much better at penetrating objects such as walls and foliage – therefore making it ideal for both rural and urban VoLTE coverage.
Speaking to Mobile, a spokesperson from EE said, ‘We have an ambition to agree VoLTE services with our MVNO customers in the future and are currently reviewing our delivery plans for the next 12-18 months. Significant infrastructure work needs to take place before this service can be offered, and of course we’ll ensure our MVNO customers are informed of developments. In the meantime our MVNO customers with 4G access continue to benefit from the EE 2G, 3G and 4G networks services they enjoy today.'
The spokesperson also highlighted that this would be dependent on the MVNO’s requirements, stating that BT Mobile was ‘very keen’ to use the additional VoLTE bandwidth. A spokesperson from Virgin Media told Mobile that 'The terms of our agreement with BT/EE are confidential, but we will have access to this spectrum in future.' Virgin Media signed a new full MVNO deal with BT and EE two weeks ago.
To avoid confusion, EE has also ‘blocked’ phones that cannot run with VoLTE from detecting the new frequencies, to avoid any confusion caused by bars displaying on the handset, while being unable to make phone calls.