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EE is planning a major rural broadband expansion over the next three years, supported by the use of innovative, new technology solutions.

The firm says it will use "unique" micro-network technology to deliver 3G and 4G connectivity in more than 1,500 rural communities across the UK.

EE is to build micro networks that wirelessly connect small mobile antennas to a nearby macro site, eliminating the need for cabling and helping to reduce deployment costs and complexity.

The technology has the potential to connect communities of around 100 to 150 homes and businesses, across an area of 0.5 square miles, with just three or four small antennae.

These can be installed onto any building in just a few hours, with no planning application required.

Trials of the technology have taken place in the small village of Sebergham in Cumbria, which has 129 dwellings and 347 residents.

Cumbria County Councillor Duncan Fairbairn said the mobile service in Sebergham - which lies in a deep valley - is "either non-existent or spasmodic at best".

In addition, he claimed broadband is "incredibly slow and very unreliable" for local people.

"In rural communities like Sebergham, being connected to good, reliable mobile coverage can make a significant difference to everyday life and we need fast broadband," Cllr Fairbairn stated.

"We’re delighted to be the first community in the UK to benefit from this EE initiative, and there are more villages in my parish that I know will benefit hugely from this, and they’re excited to be connected next.”

EE's Chief Executive Olaf Swantee said the "innovative new technology" gives his firm the capability to connect every community in the UK.

"We estimate that we’ll be able to bring reliable voice coverage and high-speed mobile broadband to more than 1,500 places for the first time by 2017," he added.

Mr Swantee explained that the operator has been working closely with the government on a "long-term ambition" to improve UK mobile coverage.

"We believe that this world-first technology will demonstrate significant advancements against that vision," he stated.

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