News / EE gives hope over emergency 4G network

MOBILE operator EE has denied suggestions from Northern Isles MP Alistair Carmichael that masts on its proposed 4G emergency services network (ESN) will not be opened up to users of all networks.

The MP last week called on ministers in Westminster to ensure that the new replacement network, which EE has been tasked by the government to build across the country, will be opened up to mobile phone customers using all operators.

Carmichael called it a “once in a generation” opportunity to expand coverage in the isles.

However, an EE spokesman confirmed to Shetland News that every ESN site which gives a 4G service to its customers will also be made available for other operators if they choose to use it.

Minister for policing and fire services Brandon Lewis told Carmichael in a letter that there are 25 ESN sites planned for Orkney and Shetland as well as one possible “extended area services” site, which would be used by the government to extend 4G coverage into rural areas.


EE added that the “majority” of sites on the £1.2bn scheme are being paid for by EE and not through government money.

Its spokesman said: “As a matter of course, we are opening up all of our new sites to other operators so that they can provide coverage in these locations if they choose to.

“Our investment in expanding coverage around Orkney and Shetland will have a huge impact on people in the area, and ensure the availability of the world-leading new emergency services network.”

The network said that while some ESN sites may only offer coverage to the emergency services as a result of location, it looks like most masts proposed for Shetland will be able to be opened up to consumers.

EE was awarded a government contract in 2015 to replace the UK’s existing two-way radio service, which is used by police, ambulance and fire services.

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The company said in November that its “intention is to enable every site to offer 4G connectivity to consumer customers, though some may be live for emergency services network first”.

The existing network is expected to transition to the new 4G system between September 2017 and December 2019.

Last year mobile phone users experienced high speed 4G mobile data for the first time in Shetland when the service was switched on by networks including Vodafone and O2 in areas such as Lerwick and Weisdale.

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