On 11 May 2010 Orange UK and T-Mobile UK joined together to become Everything Everywhere. The new company overtook both O2 and Vodafone to become the UK’s biggest mobile network with 27.2 million subscribers as of March 2012. Shortly afterwards Everything Everywhere (EE) started to bring together the Orange and T-Mobile networks starting with allowing their subscribers to roam onto the other network if their home network had no signal. In May 2012 EE completed the last stage of their network integration in launching Smart Signal which automatically switches customers onto the strongest signal whether that be the Orange or T-Mobile networks.
The benefits of Smart Signal are clear – stronger signal in more areas. However, the integration of the Orange and T-Mobile networks has also given EE the ability to consolidate it’s network removing masts which it deems to be covering multiple areas. In April EE switched off T-Mobile’s entire Northern Ireland network. This decision caused NI T-Mobile subscribers to experience a significant change in their coverage as they moved from receiving their services through T-Mobile masts to Orange masts.
Above: No more T-Mobile in Northern Ireland
Smart Signal effectively both improves the signal of EE subscribers whilst also reducing the impact of mobile mast decommissioning. It does not make commercial sense for EE to keep T-Mobile and Orange masts which cover the same areas. These ‘duplicates’ have a high chance of being removed and in this scenario Smart Signal should avoid most subscribers in the area being affected. When a mast is decommissioned you will notice a difference in the signal strength you receive and the impact of this change will be bigger for people near the edge of cell (mobile mast) areas. When you use your mobile phone your device scans for the best cell (or mobile mast) to connect to. Each cell covers a defined area with locations closer to the mast receiving stronger signal and those further away receiving weaker signal. The strength of the signal has a direct impact on your ability to get a good mobile reception in your home as does the thickness of your walls and close geographical features (i.e. mountains/hills). Once an EE cell site is decommissioned your position in the cell coverage area changes which may result in significant drops in reception. Residents in Glenariff in Northern Ireland experienced this problem (see here).
Above: How making a call on your mobile phone works
Smart Signal is, overall, a massive plus for both Orange and T-Mobile subscribers. You should notice fewer black-spots, better rural coverage and better coverage in general. However the coverage you receive may change as EE consolidates its network to remove duplicates. In September 2010 Orange joined the Mobile Broadband Network – a 3G Network sharing joint venture between T-Mobile and 3 mobile. EE subscribers can therefore look forward to better 3G coverage because of this initiative. 4G trials and EE’s wish to rapidly deploy 4G using it’s 1800MHz band may also be of benefit to EE subscribers. Smart Signal may cause problems for some but being part of a forward thinking network with fingers in all the right pies is an exciting place to be.
Have you noticed any problems, or benefits of Smart Signal in your area? Let us know with this poll and in the comments below!