Why EE is missing the point about 4G

Everything Everywhere is spending a fortune on persuading people to spend a fortune with them. I’ve seen billboards, TV ad after TV ad, posters, radio adverts (didn’t see those, but you catch my drift) and pages in the paper. They’ve got a transient monopoly and they want to milk it for every penny they can get.

Sadly, they’ve gone so hard at the advertising and rolling out a 4G network that they’ve failed to account for the purpose of 4G: that is, high-speed on-demand data. Nobody needs high-speed data to check their e-mails, or check facebook – 3G is perfectly adequate for that. What people want 4G for is streaming. Films, TV-channel-catch-up of choice, YouTube; name a video service, and people want to watch it on the train home in HD on their Retina-or-equivalent device.

This is where EE have gone wrong. Video streaming eats data like Eric Pickles eats lunch and EE have been stingy with the sandwiches. Their cheapest plan (coming in at an wallet-breaking thirty-six pounds a month) comes with 500mb of data. Using the BBC iPlayer diagnostics page as a guide, that is 19 minutes of HD video a month (or just over 2 hours of the lowest-quality video iPlayer offers – one half-hour show weekly) if you literally never use the internet for anything else. You can’t even watch a whole episode of Have I Got News For You. Even their most exuberant plan, aimed at those who’ve yet to notice the financial affairs of the past few years, only has 8gb of data (or 5 hours or so of HD video).

I have a three mobile internet router in my room at home as the provided internet in the accommodation is awful. Speedtest.net (and the iPlayer diagnostics page) returns a data rate consistently around 7mbps on that, and it costs me £15.99 for 15gb per month.* The EE website states ‘Average 4G download speeds are likely to be between 8 and 10 megabits a second (Mbit/s), with possible instances of up to 40 Mbit/s’. Why, if I consistently get speeds between 6-8Mbits/s with 3G tech, should I pay three times as much**  for a 30% speed boost that I don’t need because the 3G is already fast enough for everything I could want to do?

It’s a shame, because had EE gone for a more liberal data plan I could see that they would get many more early-adopting people on board for the 24-month contracts that all phone operators crave these days. This would have carried their customers beyond the rollout of LTE capacity to the other networks, denying those competitors customers and keeping their own LTE well-used. The issue is that they have opened up a technology that is all about data and then hamstrung it with restrictions and expense. Offering no data charges on streaming from the dedicated EE store is a small solace to those already paying through the nose for a product that, for all intents and purposes, offers little benefit over far-cheaper plans with other networks. I’m sure in future that LTE with live up to its name and good things shall spring from it, and the demand for more data per second will validate the creation of the technology. I don’t think it’s currently the be-all and end-all that EE are making it out to be.

I certainly don’t think I should be paying more for what, ultimately, amounts to quite a bit less.

also, double-e is much more pronounceable

*if you wanted to quibble that you can also get an iPhone 5 with the EE plan, three offer an iPhone 5 plan with unlimited data for £36 a month. I’m only comparing three because it’s a mobile internet I’ve used and I know is reasonable. That, and trawling through hundreds of deals for the sake of a blog post seems excessive. I have a presentation to make tomorrow, don’tchaknow.

**comparing mobile broadband plans for both networks

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2 responses to “Why EE is missing the point about 4G

  1. “It’s a shame, because had EE gone for a more liberal data plan I could see that they would get many more early-adopting people on board”

    That’d work great now, while there are few people on LTE networks. Wait till more people start to join, and the early adopters on unlimited data tariffs would start to pose a bandwidth problem. That’s what happened with 3G; early adopters had unlimited data, until the networks realised that even with unlimited data, some people will try to use it all…

    That being said, you’re right: 4Gs tariffs are a really poor deal at the moment. Especially as LTE doesn’t exactly have decent coverage at the moment… To be honest I’d rather the networks concentrated on getting decent 3G coverage to most built up areas, and to the roads/railways/etc that link them up. I stream stuff off my phone sometimes on the commute to/from work, and it’s annoying that even on main roads around Birmingham there’s a few blackspots where I drop out of HSDPA and have to wait for things to buffer.

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