Everything Everywhere has completed the final stage of its Smart Signal Sharing project, meaning that customers of Orange and T-Mobile will be now able to automatically switch between networks if signal strength is low.
The company first announced its intention to allow 2G signal sharing in October 2011, enabling customers of Orange and T-Mobile to make calls and send texts over each other's networks. 3G sharing for data services was then introduced in October 2011.
The final stage of the switch-on ensures that if a customer’s 3G signal drops to a point at which performance may be impacted – around one bar of signal – their device will automatically switch to available 3G signal on either network, at no extra charge.
If no 3G coverage is available, all Orange and T-Mobile devices will switch to 2G signal and back on to 3G when either network comes back into range, even if a customer is half-way through downloading a page on the internet.
“Smart Signal Sharing marks the completion of the Orange and T-Mobile signal integration project, which provides our 27.5 million customers with the widest 2G and 3G coverage available in Britain today,” said Olaf Swantee, chief executive of Everything Everywhere.
“Our continued investment into the network, including the launch of 50 percent faster 3G speeds through HSPA+, allows our customers to access the internet, social networks or download emails faster in more places than ever before.”
The news comes as Everything Everywhere awaits Ofcom's approval for the roll out of 4G LTE services in the UK. The company hopes to steal a march on other operators by refarming its existing 1800Mhz spectrum for 4G services, ahead of Ofcom's auction of spectrum in the 800MHz and 2.6GHz bands later this year.
Ofcom gave its provisional approval for Everything Everywhere to deliver 4G services over its existing 1800MHz spectrum in March, stating that the refarming of spectrum would “bring material benefits to consumers”.
However, the watchdog has been forced to extend its consultation period amid a storm of protest from rival networks, none of whom hold sufficient quantities of 1800MHz spectrum to launch their own 4G services in any compelling way.
At an event in London yesterday, Everything Everywhere's head of network strategy and architecture, David Salam, said that the other operators had their chance to refarm their own 900MHz spectrum for 4G services, but chose to use it for 3G instead.
However, O2 argued that, unlike with 1800MHz, there is no ecosystem of devices that support 4G at 900MHz, and that such an ecosystem is unlikely to develop.