EE, 4G, BoJo, OMG

 

Rory Cellan-Jones tests out 4G at the news conference

It didn't start too well. For the first 20 minutes of Everything Everywhere's big 4G launch at the Science Museum we were treated to a lecture on the brilliance of its new brand, EE, and the strategy behind it. When we were told to sit through a "short mood film" about the brand, I fully expected Siobhan from Perfect Curve in the BBC comedy Twenty Twelve to take to the stage.

But when it came to 4G itself, there was plenty to get your teeth into. By Christmas, the new fast network, already operational in four cities, would be available to 20 million people in urban areas across the UK, from Belfast to Derby, from Glasgow to Southampton.

You'll need a new phone of course, or a 4G dongle, and we heard that devices from Samsung, Nokia and Huawei, would be available to connect customers to the EE network within weeks.

But instead of a manufacturer taking to the stage - perhaps they're wary of offending other networks - up popped the mayor of London Boris Johnson. He freely admitted he was a little confused about 4G, but thought it was a jolly good thing that London would have it, when Paris would still be waiting.

Everything Everywhere boss Olaf Swantee announces 4G rollout

Afterwards we got to try out the EE 4G, which was beaming a signal from the roof of the Victoria and Albert museum. I compared a Samsung Galaxy S3 LTE - not on sale yet in the UK - with two iPhones running on the O2 and Vodafone networks. The Samsung achieved download speeds of up to 30Mbps on 4G, while the 3G networks delivered between 1 and 5Mbps on the iPhone.

Not a completely fair test - I had a six lane highway virtually to myself on EE's 4G while 3G networks are becoming congested - but an idea of what the future promises.

There are still important questions to be answered. What will customers have to pay for the service and when will it reach those rural areas that may need it more than the towns?

And what will be the reaction of rival networks, bitter at seeing EE given a head start by Ofcom when they won't be able to offer 4G until well into 2013? Even during the press conference I was getting messages from one operator claiming that it would provide much better coverage when its service was up and running. But it seems that the threat of legal action may be on hold after a government intervention, and any move to put a spoke in the wheels of the 4G rollout might not play well with the public.

The other question - will EE be able to offer UK customers a 4G iPhone after tomorrow's Apple launch? The chief executive Olaf Swantee told me he simply didn't know. But if his network can go into Christmas offering the two most popular phones - the Samsung Galaxy S3 and the new iPhone - on a new fast network, that noise echoing across Britain will be the gnashing of teeth from the headquarters of Vodafone and O2.

 
Rory Cellan-Jones Article written by Rory Cellan-Jones Rory Cellan-Jones Technology correspondent

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  • rate this
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    Comment number 22.

    @16 Andrew

    A £650mn subsidy was just awarded to the main telecoms players for infrastructure. It would be difficult to know the complete picture without transparency. I do agree with you though; you pay for an advertised service, but so do others. I disagree with any claim to superiority in service distribution.

  • rate this
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    Comment number 21.

    I live in New York. My wife uses her 4G phone and I have my 3G. There is almost no difference in the speed. As mentioned by previous comments, the network operators must be limiting the upload/download speeds. It will be a while until there is a noticeable difference.

  • rate this
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    Comment number 20.

    Edge, 3G, 4G etc. won't make the slightest difference. It's a little known fact that network operators actually throttle back data upload/download speeds. Whatever the maximum speed of 4G, it's unlikely anyone is going to get near it unless they can persuade their network operator to uncap their connection.

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 19.

    I wish people would stop calling it 4G its not. It is LTE (basically more like 3G+)
    True 4G peak at 100 megabits per second (Mbit/s) for high mobility communication (such as from trains and cars) and 1 gigabit per second (Gbit/s) for low mobility communication (such as pedestrians and stationary users).

  • rate this
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    Comment number 18.

    10.Myatu "It's like driving a Ferrari through the streets of London."

    But isn't that exactly what the mobile phone industry is about! Daft, easily suggestible customers buying new kit just to show off in the pub/cafe. Be honest how many Galaxy S3 phones have you seen at the cafe in recent weeks! But don't ask what they like to use to make calls! (That goes for all makes, not just Samsung!)

  • rate this
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    Comment number 17.

    The operators will have to limit or extend the databundles with these speeds....

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 16.

    @11 Under-Used

    It's primarily business contracts that pay for the infrastructure changes in the first place, and they pay significantly more than domestic users for their service, as it has to be guaranteed. I pay around £1000 per month at work for a dedicated symmetric 100Mbit link. How many domestic users would pay that price?

  • rate this
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    Comment number 15.

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 14.

    In parts of Africa they are setting up a 4G infrastructure as laying cables is not really the best of options. So what that means is if they meet their plan by early 2013 Kenya will have better internet connections and mobile coverage than that of most people in English cities and certainly better than in any English rural area....

  • rate this
    -1

    Comment number 13.

    @11 Under-Used
    That's not called fraud, that's called speculation.

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 12.

    It's all moot anyway, as Apple probably owns the patent to consuming 4G on a mobile device.

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 11.

    @10 Myatu

    It's been suggested to me that bandwidth is stolen from domestic users via QOS and packet shaping to ensure that business receive a constant service. In other words you're paying for bandwidth that you have no chance of receiving. Some might call that fraud?

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 10.

    The high speeds matter nothing if the backhaul link can't cope with the
    amount of active users.

    Take for example Three UK in my area. At 2:30 AM, I can achieve speeds in excess of 12 Mbps. But at 2:30 PM, it trickles through at something around 800 Kbps.

    It's like driving a Ferrari through the streets of London.

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 9.

    Not convinced. I'm on "T-Mobile Orange" (as it says on my phone's display) and currently just outside Belfast, and the best data I can get is GPRS, which is pathetic. This 4G is NEVER going to happen, and will be just another load of old tosh, like 3G which I can't get either. Or am I being cynical?

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 8.

    They keep on reinventing the wheel with this G stuff
    I'm going to wait until it's a stable and mature market

    Multiple handhelds, multiple operating systems multiple delivery systems and multiple operators

    eek !

  • rate this
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    Comment number 7.

    Rory, your video showing a broadband speed test is completely misleading. The speed at which data can be received by a device is a combination of many things. There is no point in having a high bandwidth device if the services you connect to only push the data at fixed speeds i.e. You Tube roughly 7mbs. Those lies were exposed on fixed line services; they're equally unacceptable for mobiles.

  • rate this
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    Comment number 6.

    @JourneyingJohn

    I've had bad experiences with T-mobile. Admittedly there weren't that many places I experienced no 3G and 2G was better than other networks. I was however on a tariff that had a decent data cap. The current ones are terrible and I can't see their 4G ones being much better. They also threatened legal action despite a contract finishing and not being willingly renewed.

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 5.

    I have MSc Electronics and Comm's & had the misfortune to suffer EE's network (Nothing Nowhere=more accurate)
    Irrespective of the tech used from mast to handset, their backhaul speeds are so poor consumers will do better on ANY other 2.5g network.

    + Having wasted in excess of 21hrs trying to resolve poor speeds & cr*p phones, I think their customer service is execrable/insulting AVOID!

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 4.

    No mention of power consumption? 4G antenna require considerably more power than 3G ones. We've only just about reached the point where an average smartphone will last a day using 3G.

    As 4G will mainly only really be useful in mobile devices for things like watching videos without buffering; device run times are going to be poor.

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 3.

    Where is the money coming from for 4G. The customer is essentially static with full market saturation. So the use charges must rise substantially or EE and everyone else will make big losses.

    It is all very well raving about something you don't have to pay for, Rory, but please get real!

 

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