A new 4G network for the UK, and a new brand: EE

After years of staring in envy at the US – and even some of its European neighbours – the UK today took its first step towards a 4G future, with the launch of ‘EE’, a new brand dedicated to super-fast connectivity, including not just 4G LTE mobile products, but also fibre connections to the home and office.

At an event at London’s Science Museum this morning, the company’s CEO, Olaf Swantee, revealed that the cumbersomely named ‘Everything Everywhere’ brand – the umbrella that covers both Orange and T-Mobile in the UK – is to be renamed ‘EE’. This will also become the name of the physical network, so device owners will soon see ‘EE’ replacing “T-Mobile Orange” as their provider before the end of the year.

But the bigger and more exciting revelation was the announcement of EE as a third brand, sitting alongside T-Mobile and Orange, dedicated to providing super-fast connectivity to the UK. Orange will remain a ‘premium’ focused brand, for customers who value added extras; T-Mobile is a more straightforward value-focused proposition. Both networks will continue to offer 3G connections. The EE brand got its first outing today; the new logo combines with a colour palette of aqua, yellow, white and ivory, and dynamic ‘particles’ (or dots) that come together to form text and other graphical elements.

EE will usher in the UK’s first 4G LTE service, a change that the company’s CEO described as a “revolution” for the UK. The new brand aims to provide the biggest, best and fastest network in the UK, and the process of rolling it out begins now.

Four UK cities – London, Birmingham, Bristol and Cardiff – had their 4G signals switched on today. Engineers are currently engaged in testing in those cities, but by the end of the year, these and twelve further cities will be customer-ready. 4G coverage will be available for 20m people – around a third of the UK population – by the year's end; by the end of 2013, this will increase to 70%; by the end of 2014, EE promises to offer 98% coverage of the United Kingdom. EE says this represents the fastest deployment of any mobile technology in the UK ever.

But what about the all-important question of devices? Five handsets were officially announced for EE’s launch today:

  • Nokia Lumia 920
  • Nokia Lumia 820
  • HTC One XL
  • Samsung Galaxy S III LTE
  • Huawei Ascend P1 LTE

…but “one more thing”, was also promised – a rather thinly veiled hint at the imminent arrival of the new iPhone (due to be announced tomorrow) on the new network. Additionally, two data devices will be offered: the Huawei E589 hotspot, and the Huawei E392 USB stick.

Predictably, EE isn’t yet announcing details of pricing or availability, but promises that further info will be revealed in the coming weeks.

The Mayor of London, Boris Johnson, made a special guest appearance at today’s event, and put in a fantastic performance that had the assembled press roaring with laughter. He began by congratulating the telecoms companies – including EE, but then put his foot in by repeatedly mentioning rivals O2 and Vodafone “and erm… who are the other guys? Ah yes, BT – our Olympic sponsors, of course” to the amusement of all – for their success in keeping London connected during the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games. He also referred to the ‘particles’ of EE’s brand – which the company spent around 15 minutes discussing – as “those lovely pollen count dots”, adding that “4G mustn’t be confused with G4S” (that’s one for us Brits), before admitting, to the surprise of no-one, that he didn’t fully understand 4G technology.

However, he underlined the enormous benefits that the new technology will bring to London and its residents and businesses, before officially declaring London’s 4G network ‘switched on’. In demos after the main keynote, speeds of over 20Mbps were shown on the HTC One XL and Galaxy S III – although we’ll have to wait and see if these speeds can be consistently achieved in the real world.

We’ll of course be tracking this story closely in the weeks and months ahead, and we look forward to getting our hands on the UK’s first 4G devices soon.

What do you think of the new 'EE' name? Do you think it will confuse customers to have a third brand alongside T-Mo and Orange? And what about the new devices? Do you think you'll be an early adopter of 4G LTE on the new carrier? Let us know your thoughts below!

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