EE Signal & Coverage Problems: EE have cut back their 3G network in the UK now 4G is launched

Mobile network EE has recently been the subject of extensive criticism due to signal issues and reduced coverage being experienced primarily by iPhone 5 users - we look at how you can attempt to fix it, and why the problems have come about. Have you been affected?

EE Signal Problems

EE Signal Problems appear to be a result of network rationalisation – cutting back on phone masts

Mobile network EE has recently been the subject of extensive criticism due to signal issues being experienced primarily by iPhone 5 users. The BBC’s watchdog have picked up on the issue, and the company has recently become the subject of a dedicated website and consumer action group as well as a number of Facebook groups.

We’ve received extensive reports users on EE of the following problems:

We’re seeing increased reports from those with an iPhone 5 or iPhone 4S

  • Repeated dropped calls
  • Signal dropping to ‘no service’ intermittently
  • Getting stuck on no service and having to restart the phone or switch airplane mode on and off to regain service
  • iPhone 5 only getting a weak EDGE (indicated by an E) signal as opposed to 3G
  • Only getting 1 bar of slow, weak 3G signal
  • Getting an intermittent 000-00 displaying where the network should be
  • General poor reception across the board – Poor 3G and 4G service
  • No signal where previously the customer had a full 3G signal (i.e. at home or work)

Without too much speculation, whilst some suspect the 3G masts have been removed or scaled back to allow for the 4G rollout – both to save money and encourage people to move over to more expensive 4G plans, one thing is for certain and it’s that 3G signals in these areas are indisputably poorer in terms of coverage and signal strength.

What can you do to fix the EE signal problems?

A quick fix can be switching to airplane mode for a few seconds, then switching back to force the phone to reconnect to the network.

EE recommend doing a full hard reset and software update (where your phone has update over Wi-Fi functionality, they recommend that you upgrade with the cable connected to your computer – e.g. if you’re an iPhone user, upgrade with your iPhone connected to iTunes) to eliminate any software issues. Most users however report continued issues even after spending time to do this.

EE Signal Problems Fix iPhone 5

Disabling LTE can slightly improve the experience for those with a 3G contract on the iPhone 5

How to fix EE signal problems on the iPhone 5

Whilst the quickest fix is likely to be moving away from EE – there are a number of things you can do that may help gain a slightly more reliable signal.

  • The intermittent no service issue, or the 000-00 issue can be caused by your iPhone 5 attempting to connect to the 4G (LTE) network even though you don’t have a 4G package. This will cause the phone to connect, then drop – and continue doing so causing repeated connectivity issues and drops.
  • If you’re an EE customer, you’ll need data roaming on at all times. Roaming needs to be enabled if you’d like to take advantage of all T-Mobile base stations as well as Orange ones. With roaming off, your phone will only connect with Orange masts.
  • Try texting START to 2121. This will re-register your device to ensure it’s properly connecting to both Orange and T-Mobile masts.

 Go to Settings > General > Cellular

Ensure LTE is OFF (if you don’t have a 4G package)

Ensure Data Roaming  is ON

(Remember to turn this off when going abroad if you don’t plan to use roaming)

Surely this isn’t an issue – I was an Orange customer before and my signal was fine.

Unfortunately, you’ll now need roaming on as EE are taking out masts where they duplicate coverage areas.

Can you get out of your EE contract?

Some mobile networks offer a guarantee of acceptable network coverage within their mobile contracts, allowing you to cancel if you find that you don’t have the signal that you expected. EE is not one of these networks.

Orange traditionally had the best coverage out of all networks in the UK

Orange has traditionally installed more mobile phone base stations than rival networks in a bid to guarantee the best mobile phone coverage. Orange uses GSM 1800 and has a widespread mobile coverage, in close competition to the solidity of the mobile coverage leaders. Orange also has the largest integrated 3G network in the UK.

This has changed now with the rollout of 4G, and with the interspersing of the T-mobile network.

Why did Orange and T-Mobile become EE?

In 2010 T-Mobile and Orange merged under a new parent company ‘Everything Everywhere’ allowing both operators to share each other’s networks to improve coverage for millions of customers. With EE stepping up it’s 4G rollout however, increasing numbers of customers, some of whom have been with Orange or T-Mobile since the very beginning are reporting unbearable coverage issues. EE also had early problems and issues of no signal across both its 3G and 4G networks with senior EE staff conceding they were facing ‘teething problems’.

EE Mast Rationalisation

EE is removing masts in order to cut costs after the Orange T-Mobile merger

Just why is why is the EE signal so bad?

There may be a number of reasons for this – but the main reason will be the post-rationalisation which is coming after the Orange and T-Mobile merge. For instance, in April 2012 EE switched off T-Mobile’s entire Northern Ireland network in order to cut costs and rationalise the network. They’re continuing to rationalise and cut back their network which will cause intermittent issues as they do this, as well as potential gaps in coverage. The consolidation and rationalisation of masts involves decommissioning masts and moving equipment to other masts which were considered to provide adequate cover. We can confirm that EE decommissioned 548 cell sites in the first quarter of 2013.

The 4G switch on is clearly being rushed in, so it’s likely there could be interference or conflicts between 3G and 4G networks. The 3G network is likely to be phased out over time as more and more 4G base stations are added, replacing 3G ones.

 Over the past 3 months, we have received:

  • 132 independent reports of EE signal issues from Greater London
  • 64 independent reports of EE signal issues from Glasgow
  • 40 independent reports of EE signal issues from Manchester, Bristol, Birmingham, Cardiff, Edinburgh, Leeds, Liverpool, Manchester, Sheffield, Plymouth and Southampton.

These are all areas where 4G have been rolled out.

What are your experiences? Have you seen a reduction in your 3G signal? What device are you using? Were you with Orange or T-Mobile before?