EE launches strategy to onshore 100% of service calls and expand 4G coverage to 95% of the UK
By Marc Allera, Chief Executive Officer, EE
Following the reorganisation of the BT Group that took effect from 1 April, EE's first major announcement was the unveiling of my '100% plan'.The plan covers all areas of the business, but focuses on network and customer service.
Better 4G coverage
Investment in coverage will focus on filling in outdoor 'notspots' in current 4G areas, and expanding 4G coverage from a UK-leading position of 60% landmass today towards an objective of 95% by 2020 – further than any mobile network has ever gone. The 5% left uncovered by 4G at the end of this period will be areas of the UK that no-one lives in or visits.
The measure of landmass, or 'geographic coverage' instead of the traditional 'population coverage' is an important one, because it recognises that customers move around with their mobiles devices rather than stay in a single area, which is what population coverage measures. 90% of the UK geography will have been covered by the summer of 2017. Our indoor 4G coverage will also increase with this investment, to approximately 98% of premises.
Our focus is on 'macro' coverage using low frequency spectrum. Where satellite backhaul, air masts1 or other innovative technology solutions have to be rolled out, they will be considered too.
When fully rolled out, most of our customers will be able to stay online using superfast speeds 100% of the time.
There are also significant changes on the voice call front. At launch, 4G was used only for data connections, with customers moving to 3G while on a call. Now, we are rolling out 4G Calling (VoLTE) across the UK to enable both voice and data over 4G. This will ensure customers get superfast 4G data speeds while on calls and can make calls in new areas of the network that are 4G-only. We've already taken 4G Calling live in London, Birmingham, Bristol, Manchester, Edinburgh, Glasgow, Belfast, Leeds and Newcastle, and we'll have switched it on across the rest of the network by July.
Policy reform will be necessary to build and maintain such a widespread mobile network. This includes: ensuring that proposed changes to the Electronic Communications Code support operators' coverage ambitions; that all parts of the UK build on the recent positive announcements on planning changes for England; and that industry, Government and Ofcom work together to improve network operators' financial incentives to invest. EE will continue to consult Government and Ofcom on these issues.
Separately, our 100% Plan focuses on customer service. Starting with the on-shoring of 600 customer service roles, which means all customer calls will be answered in the UK and Republic of Ireland by the end of 2016.
More than 100 roles have been created in Merthyr, North Tyneside, Plymouth and Republic of Ireland, so all of our Pay Monthly customer calls are handled onshore. The locations of the remaining 500 jobs, providing service for EE Pay as You Go and Home customers, will be announced in the second half of 2016.
We've already boosted customer satisfaction and cut complaints by 50% since 2014 through an onshoring programme that's seen more than 1,400 jobs created in the UK and Ireland. Our investment in a further 600 UK and Ireland service roles will provide the best possible service for our customers, and supports our commitment to becoming number one mobile operator for customer service in the UK.
1 Air masts - essentially aerial small cells positioned in the sky above hard-to-reach areas, using either tethered balloons or unmanned craft/drones.