EE turns on nine 5G trial sites in East London
Written by: Sam Fenwick | Published:

EE, part of BT Group, announced today (7 November) that it has gone live with nine 5G trial sites across East London.

The operator states that the trial has encompassed every element of building a 5G network including obtaining planning permission and access agreements, and managing power outputs. The trial will now assess the 5G customer experience.

In a rare move, EE’s announcement shed some light on the practical difficulties associated with 5G deployment. It noted that upgrading cell sites to 4G could be done by repurposing existing antennas, but to upgrade them to 5G, each of them must be fitted with new equipment. The trial has found that Rooftop sites often need significant strengthening to carry the new 50kg 5G antennas – and some sites house three of these. The level of upgrade work required can cause delays in obtaining planning permission, and can necessitate repeat visits, which means multiple access requests to landlords. The company also said that locations for 5G antennas can be dictated by the need to stay below regulated power output levels.

Howard Watson, BT CTIO, said: “Deploying this brand new layer of our EE mobile network is far from straightforward, and this trial has helped us to understand – and learn how to overcome – the significant challenges that we’ll face in the coming years. We’re also learning about the coverage we can achieve with 5G New Radio on our new 3.4GHz spectrum, both indoors and in densely cluttered streets.”

EE’s nine trial sites in East London cover Provost Street, City Road, Central Street, Old Street, Cheapside, St Paul’s, Finsbury Circus Garden, Clerkenwell Street and Bartholomew Square.

Businesses and consumers in these areas are being invited to join the trial, which will first use 5G as an alternative to their fixed broadband.

As well as these sites in East London, EE is also currently trialling live 5G in Canary Wharf, and new device functionality is being tested in the Borehamwood test lab.

EE aims to be the UK’s first mobile network to offer consumers and businesses 5G, and it will launch its 5G network in 2019 in the busiest parts of the UK’s busiest cities.

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