The Tech City high tech cluster in London’s East End is getting an extra helping of high speed mobile connectivity from June. Carrier EE, which owns and operates the U.K.’s first and still only LTE/4G network, has announced it is partnering with the Tech City Investment Organisation, the government body that’s part of UKTI, to install a network of 4G hotspots in “key locations” for businesses in the area to use.
It’s unclear exactly where these hotspots will be, or whether they will be open to non-EE customers to use (albeit, you’d still need a 4G-enable device running on the correct frequency to benefit from EE’s 4G speeds). Update: According to a person familiar with the plans MiFis will be provided so that non-EE customers can get 4G speeds.
We’ve reached out to EE for more information and will update this story with any response. Update: An EE spokeswoman said: “We’ll be sharing more details in the coming weeks.” Tech City confirmed to TechCrunch it is involved in the partnership but was not in a position to provide further details.
Here’s EE’s initial statement about the 4G Tech City hotspots:
EE will next month unveil a partnership with Tech City to provide businesses in the East London area with early access to some of the fastest mobile broadband connectivity in the world.
The plans will both provide businesses with the connectivity that they need to thrive, as well allow them to test and create new ideas and applications, that will rely on the fast networks and infrastructure of tomorrow.
EE’s partnership with Tech City will commence in June, with the introduction of 4G mobile Wi-Fi hotspots in key locations.
EE also plans to introduce superfast double-speed 4G to Tech City, ahead of a wider national roll out.
More news will be announced regarding EE and Tech City’s partnership in the coming weeks.
According to EE’s 4G coverage checker tool, East London is already blanketed in the good stuff — so presumably the additional hotspots are aimed at increasing network density in areas where high-tech businesses are located to serve demand for extra bandwidth. Either that or EE’s 4G map is painting a misleading picture of 4G coverage in the area:
Crowdsourced mobile signal tracker OpenSignal paints a rather different picture of 4G connectivity across London (see map below) — with only a few spots in a few locations and nothing cropping up in East London. This is likely to be, at least in part, a result of OpenSignal having limited 4G data to work with. The number of 4G users in the U.K. remains small (numbered in the low hundreds of thousands — not all of whom are likely to be living in London or using OpenSignal’s data gathering app). EE’s 4G network only launched at the end of October last year.
Whatever the reality of 4G connectivity in East London, more high speed connectivity and connectivity options is good news for the area’s startups. Well positioned 4G hotspots could provide a useful stop-gap for businesses waiting to get fibre broadband installed, for example. Or offer an alternative if fibre is not an option. EE’s current headline 4G download speed is around 80Mbps, with average speeds pegged at around 20Mbps.
Earlier this month the carrier announced plans to double its headline speeds to 130Mbps in the U.K.’s 10 biggest cities by this summer, which obviously includes London. According to EE’s Tech City statement today, London’s Tech City will get these doubled speeds before any other U.K. regions — so presumably that speed bump will also take place around June.