4 G E E L T E 4 ME?

Trefor Davies

By Trefor Davies

Tuesday, 23 October, 2012

4G EE LTEEE is doing a good job at building up market expectation. Today the mobile network operator launched its pricing plans, available from the end of this month.

Consumers can have unlimited calls and texts with 500MB of data for £36. Remembering that I used 60MB of data in one minute on the O2 LTE trials I suspect that not many people will stay on this plan. The options are:

500MB £36
1GB £41
3GB £46
5GB £51
8GB £56

I assume that this comes with a phone though it isn’t clear. Their site suggests you can get the Nokia Lumia 920, 820, Samsung Galaxy S3 LTE and Note 2 LTE, HTC One XL and the iPhone5 plus a few other also rans (sorry).

If you use up your data allowance you won’t be able to access the internet until you buy a data add-on (ok). It isn’t entirely clear but it looks like the cost of a data add on is £6 for 500MB or £15 for 2GB so it makes sense to get your plan right in the first place.

I note there is a roaming package for £5 a month though this doesn’t seem to apply to data which in my mind is what I am most likely to use when roaming – checking restaurants, bars, local attractions (library locations etc).

The speeds are quoted at 8 – 12Mps on average.

It also looks as if they will not be blocking VoIP (despite a network management policy, referred to but not specified). At least one of their existing companies prohibits VoIP on their 3G network but EE encourages people to make video calls. This is all about driving up data usage which in turn will drive up revenues. Its effectively £30 for unlimited voice and texts (exclusions apply of course!) then pay for the data you use in steps.

The end of the per minute call charge is nigh.

Another part of today’s announcement is EE’s entry into the fixed broadband market, based on the BT Wholesale portfolio of fibre broadband and ADSL. You could already get broadband from both TMobile and Orange so this is an obvious one.

EE is also saying that the high street shops of TMobile and Orange are going to change to EE so this is definitely the beginning of  the end for those brands. They will be gone by the time their current 2 year contracts expire and probably well before then. One assumes that they know what they are doing – Orange is a strong brand.

EE is going to have the same problem being faced by all networks and that is how you move away from just being a supplier of bandwidth. The way things are going all networks will be offering all services – BT is evolving to offer content aka Sky and Virgin and must surely bring in a proper mobile offering. Sky needs to get into mobile. Orange already offers music and videos and one presumes these services will migrate to EE once the dust settles and brands disappear.

Thinking this through, the battle ground is shifting. We have two fixed networks (BT & Virgin) and two mobile networks (EE & O2/Vodafone – the latter two will be sharing infrastructure for 4G). Whether this is a good thing for competition remains to be seen – it is the minimum level of competition you could want.

It doesn’t take a rocket scientist  to picture (maybe an artist?) a scenario where fixed and mobile networks merging into two major converged network players. Then where do we go?

Both players would have to have a wholesale mandate which today, the occasional MVNO aside, is only present in BT. The competition issue apart, at the end of the day it is going to come down to who can own the value added customer. Just selling bandwidth won’t be enough.

There are other players in the value added space though – Google, Microsoft, and Apple spring to mind. They are after your pennies too and they have global scale so are likely to be able to introduce new services and products more easily with their correspondingly bigger R&D budgets. They could potentially turn the network operators into dumb pipes.

The natural extension to what we have been discussing is that the networks also move to become global players, governments and red tape permitting1. It seems to me that we are in for a very interesting decade ahead.

In the meantime the question I asked myself in the title of this post, assuming you could decipher it, was whether I should get myself an EE 4G phone?  I have definitely decided I don’t want an iPhone. I already have a Samsung Galaxy S3 and I don’t want to move my main number to EE. Timico is a Vodafone and O2 partner.

Is it worth me contracting for another phone at those prices to try out a service at a location where I visit a few times a month (ie London). It might be but I think the driver is going to be whether there is another phone worth trying out. I don’t want a HTC One X (following my experience with the One S – unfair comparison or not). The only other game in town is the Nokia Lumia 920, or whatever comes next running Windows8 which, working for a business ISP, I do feel the need to kick the tyres of. I’ll let you know where I get to on this one. I still have a little time.

That’s all – I wan’t sure where this post was going when I started and it’s taken a lot longer than budgeted :)

1 In the event of EE becoming a global brand they would need to buy up the .com domain – check it out.  Someone is going to get rich on the sale. I can’t believe they haven’t already done it and the longer they leave it the more expensive it will get. Also they really should be able to do better than EE – I still think it is a rubbish brand name.

Trefor Davies

This article was written by Trefor Davies
on Tuesday, 23 October, 2012

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