EE-day has arrived and we now know how much we will have to pay for 4G broadband, and whether it will stands a chance of being a direct replacement for fixed line broadband.
With the plans announced, but no-one able to sign up until 30th October, while we know the headline figures we do not know other details like how much they will charge for handsets and contract lengths. The basic tariffs are:
|Product||Data allowance||Monthly price|
|Phone + unlimited calls & texts||0.5GB||£36|
|Phone + unlimited calls & texts||1GB||£41|
|Phone + unlimited calls & texts||3GB||£46|
|Phone + unlimited calls & texts||5GB||£51|
|Phone + unlimited calls & texts||8GB||£56|
|Sim only + unlimited calls & texts||0.5GB||£21|
|Sim only + unlimited calls & texts||1GB||£26|
|Sim only + unlimited calls & texts||3GB||£31|
|Sim only + unlimited calls & texts||5GB||£36|
|Mobile dongle 18 month contract||2GB||£15.99|
|Mobile dongle 18 month contract||3GB||£20.99|
|Mobile dongle 18 month contract||5GB||£25.99|
For those who have just purchased a non-4G enabled handset and a 4G enabled version of your handset is available there is a special offer where for a fee of £99 they will swap your phone for the LTE version.
Mobile tariffs are horrendously complex, but looking at orange.co.uk the Panther Extra 41 deal appears closest and this offers a 4G capable phone (using 3G) with unlimited texts and calls for £41 per month (£29.99 one off fee for the phone, and a £49.99 security deposit), but carries a 2GB per month usage allowance. So the 4G tariffs appear to be the same but with a smaller data allowance.
With early adopters of 4G there is very likely to be a tendency to play with their phone and see what the extra speeds allow them to do, from using services such as iCloud on the iPhone 5 to backup pictures, or any one of the dozen or so data cloud services on the Android platform. With 8 Megapixel camera in most modern phones a single picture can easily be 3MB in size, and with 1080p video recording a common feature, a 5 minute video could use up the 500MB allowance when uploaded to YouTube or DropBox. Fortunately EE is promising to warn users before allowances run out and give them the option to buy more allowance or wait for the next month, we suspect many will wait, as 4G is not cheap with 500MB costing £6 or £15 for an extra 2GB.
There are some bonuses to joining EE, as mobile and fibre customers until February 2013 will have access to the EE film store that will provide a free film every week to customers (the data usage is free for these downloads), and there is a 2 for 1 deal on cinema tickets if you go to the cinema on a Wednesday.
There had been a small hope that with 4G having more capacity that the scarcity pricing model of 3G would become a thing of the past, but it appears that mobile data usage in the UK is destined to remain most popular with those where someone else pays the bill, or used for low data volume tasks like email and twitter. Watching an hour of catch-up TV while stuck on the bus in city rush hour will still prove to be expensive, or something you only do towards the end of your monthly billing cycle.
We doubt that pricing will drop much when other networks launch, as they will be seeking to recover the price they paid for the 4G license. This represents a real problem for the Government and Ofcom as the 98% 4G coverage target is a key component of the Digital Britain strategy. The fixed line broadband operators appear to have nothing to worry about, as even with the need for voice line rental they can offer vastly better usage allowances still.