UK's first 4G mobile service launched in 11 cities by EE


Rory Cellan-Jones speed tests the new 4G service in Manchester

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The UK's first major fourth generation (4G) mobile service has gone live in 11 cities.

London, Manchester, Bristol, Birmingham, Cardiff, Edinburgh, Leeds, Liverpool, Sheffield, Glasgow and Southampton will have access to network EE's 4G from Tuesday morning.

Other mobile networks will not be able to offer 4G until next year.

Critics have questioned the service's affordability - particularly with regard to data usage allowance.

Belfast, Derby, Hull, Newcastle and Nottingham will be active by Christmas, the company said.

Network EE, formerly known as Everything, Everywhere and which owns Orange and T-Mobile in the UK, has promised speeds of between 8 to 12Mbps - up to five times faster than third generation mobile technology, known as 3G.

The extra speed and capacity allows for high-quality streaming of audio, video and other content while on the move.

The company said as well as giving customers faster internet, 4G would also be of big benefit to businesses.

All-you-can-eat world

However, such benefits come at a cost - the entry tariff of £36 per month includes 500MB of data, beyond which an add-on cost must be paid if the user wishes to carry on using the internet on their mobile.

Start Quote

EE was always going to have a difficult role to play being the first mover”

End Quote Matthew Howett Ovum

An hour of streaming a programme using, for example, the BBC iPlayer mobile app, can use up to 225MB - almost half the entry level tariff's data allowance limit.

The add-on costs for extra data begins at £3 for 50MB, and extends to £20 for 4GB.

The company's top tariff for standard customers will cost £56 per month, and has a data allowance of 8GB.

EE boss Olaf Swantee has said that the pricing is based on "months of consumer research" and that the tariffs have been priced at "the sweet spot".

But Matthew Howett, a regulation analyst at Ovum, said EE has a challenge in convincing consumers their 4G is good value for money.

"It's fair to say that EE has attracted a fair degree of criticism not so much for the price of the 4G tariffs, but rather on the amount of data bundled at each level," he said.

"EE was always going to have a difficult role to play being the first mover.

"However, its peers may be grateful for attempting to move away from an all-you-can-eat world for data to an attempt to monetise it.

EE chief executive Olaf Swantee EE boss Olaf Swantee says his company has hit the "sweet spot" with their pricing

"Too quickly data became commoditised for operators once smartphones and other connected devices proliferated."

User poaching

A successful 4G launch is seen as critical for EE if it is to poach customers from other networks.

EE was granted its headstart in the 4G market last month when it was given permission to run the next-generation service using its existing bandwidth.

Its competitors are unable to offer 4G until the conclusion of a spectrum auction scheduled for early next year.

The auction will determine how newly available signal spectrum will be offered to the other networks.

The process had been continually delayed by a combination of factors, from a change of government to threats of legal action from operators.

On 2 October, O2 and Vodafone agreed not to take legal action against EE, and instead settled for assurances that the process of launching their own 4G services would be sped up.

But since EE's 4G announcement, rival networks have sought to undermine the firm's offering.

In a statement on its website, Vodafone underlined what it saw as a weakness in EE's 4G - indoor coverage.

"Indoor coverage matters," the company wrote.

"That's why we've made a commitment to provide 98% indoor coverage.

"The reason we can do this is because we intend to use 800MHz frequency. Without getting too technical, this means your signal travels further into your home than any 4G signal that's available now, all things being equal."


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  • rate this

    Comment number 256.

    Think EE are coining in on the fact they are allowed 4g bandwidth before the others Voda and O2, to be honest my contract is up at end of month but I want a Lumia 920 but I will not be going with EE for one as they have them locked for a few months, will wait till O2 have them, and likely will have better terms. Plus unless you are in one of the cities with 4g its usless to you until more coverage

  • rate this

    Comment number 255.

    The prob with 4g is that once it becomes mainstream you'll get the same bottlenecks as you get now. I.e in central london getting a fast data connection is hit and miss at peak times. Sometimes i've been shocked at the speed as it approaches dial up from 10 years ago.

  • rate this

    Comment number 254.

    Seeing as most homes and offices are wi-fi enabled, £36 for only half a gig of data a month seems laughable. I really like the EE network but I can't see anything that makes me want to sign up for 4G.

  • rate this

    Comment number 253.

    Never mind 4G or 3G, I can't even get Virgin to sort my wired broadband connection out! 5 months and hundreds of people in my town in Hertfordshire are suffering from regular outages :@

  • rate this

    Comment number 252.

    I live in a town of 20,000 people, and I dont even trust the 3G, let alone 4!!!!!!!!

  • rate this

    Comment number 251.

    I can't see any reason to jump on this band wagon. The 800Hz 4G spectrum is the one you will want to be on and that is the one EE doen't offer and it's slower.

    The prices will come down in a year and when I upgrade to my iPhone 5S in autumn (skipped upgrade this time round) the phones will cover all 4G bandwidth.

    Or just stay on 3G. It'll hopefully get better as people move to 4G.

  • rate this

    Comment number 250.

    4G? I can't even get a decent 3G signal!

  • rate this

    Comment number 249.

    Cue all the Apple fanboys getting over-excited about the latest "innovation" to steal their cash. Bless.

    PS Mods - this IS relevant to the debate.

  • rate this

    Comment number 248.

    Speaking as an ex t-mobile employee, ( Sep 12) I'm glad I got out when I did. The targets on these deals will be high for the retail staff and to top it off the data limit is a croc. Who in their right mind would wanna pay for that , people with more money than sense.
    In my opinion the deals should have been no different to use the 4g network that would have created bigger influx of new contracts.

  • rate this

    Comment number 247.

    Like all technology I expect the new faster service to be cheaper then the old slower system NOT nore expensive. No I wont be buying 4G.

  • rate this

    Comment number 246.

    These greedy, non taxpaying vultures have now found a new way of screwing more money out of us. I for one will NOT be joining this frenzy. My smartphone works just fine right now and I simply don't feel the need to pose in the street at every, 'new' technology out there.

  • rate this

    Comment number 245.

    Another poorly thought out non service from two of the worst companies who brought you poor service, poor coverage and poor download speeds.

  • rate this

    Comment number 244.

    Most smartphone 3G data tariffs provide 500Mb, with inclusive call minutes and text messages for under £30 p/month

    People with data contracts don't mind paying for bandwidth, but where they will feel they are getting ripped is paying a premium for speed they aren't guaranteed to get.

    I'd like a next generation network provide next generation pricing, based on usage and quality(speed) of service

  • rate this

    Comment number 243.

    How about gwtting the country covered by mobile phone reception first? Then how about realistic tarriffs.
    You stop the march of progress but sometimes you have to look at exactly what will be beneficial to all and will supply a constant income, not just a short term hit.

  • rate this

    Comment number 242.

    There seems little point offering super-fast download speeds that can stream videos if streaming videos immediately caps you out for the month. I don't want to pay a huge amount for data that I can use up in under 2 hours.

  • rate this

    Comment number 241.

    I think when he says "sweet spot" what he actually means is "we found the point where we can take the michael without putting off too many of the ignorant yuppies who'll flock to use this".

  • rate this

    Comment number 240.


    Please keep your rubbish little iPhone 5 locked up Mr Cellan-Jones, and let someone else take care of technology stories.
    Indeed, if only he would, he only knows what he can read from the pre-prepared script.

  • rate this

    Comment number 239.

    Why is Rory Cellan-Jones always so out of touch with public opinion and the latest tech trends? His clumsy report from a closed cafe on this morning's news was embarrassing.

    Please keep your rubbish little iPhone 5 locked up Mr Cellan-Jones, and let someone else take care of technology stories.

  • rate this

    Comment number 238.

    Are we allowed to say this is more gonads from companies that don't pay their taxes in UK?

  • rate this

    Comment number 237.

    Oh woe is me, my phone can only call and text, must hang my head in shame

    As I have a house that actually has proper solid walls throughout I only just get a signal inside.
    I get through maybe £10 on PAYG every two months so,
    when I look at the cost and data limits - - ‘Shudder’ never going to happen!


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