4G Speeds – A reality check

4G Speeds   A reality check

I’ve written about this before, but I think we need a revisit today. Last night we gave you the pricing and plans for the UK’s first 4G network – EE. It’s provoked quite a response and a lot of questions.


Some expected something different. Perhaps more data allowance per month, maybe an unlimited package, but after reading comments around the web I felt that there’s a bit of disparity between the reality and perception.

This morning I received an email telling me that “a 500MB monthly allowance on 4G is pathetic, I’ll burn through that in minutes at 50Mbps”. Well, that you may do, but I can tell you now, you won’t get getting that speed.

In trials 4G technology can deliver blistering speeds and yes, if you’re connected to a lightly-used mast then you could get some very brisk downloads. However, I feel I must point back to the small print which appears on all the EE 4G literature. It refers to their own claim that 4G speeds are “typically five times faster than 3G”…

(This claim is) .. based on 1.5Mbps UK average speed for 3G (Ofcom speed survey), and 8-12Mbps average speed for 4G (source: EE Data)

That’s your average speed. 8-12Mbps. So on a good day your 4G connection could be pulling 20Mbps – maybe even more, but on a bad day you might get a lot less.. less than 8Mbps perhaps.

Now wait, I should clarify this point. Yes, it’s going to be a lot better than your current mobile speeds. Using 4G to browse or RDP across a VPN on your laptop will be much smoother. Downloads will be quicker, videos will buffer less, but it’s dangerous to assume that you’ll be getting some sort of invisible ethernet cable plugged into your phone. There’s a lot of factors which come into play between you and the website you’re trying to get to.

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  • Jon

    Well said, after all LTE isn’t really 4g after all, just a naming trick. I’d much rather have an unlimited data package like I have on 3 with tethering included and a reasonably decent connection speed of a 2-7mb.

    Tortoise and hair are brought to mind.

    • Rickinyorkshire

      Tethering is included as standard on all EE packages but yes an unlimited data plan is sorely missed. Maybe other providers will be quick to pounce on that.

  • I get can get 10Mbps on Three in Bolton and over 13Mbps in Manchester City which is unlimited data for £15 per month. Why would anyone pay such a price for not much more speed and 500Mb caps? Stupidity. Why would you need 20Mbps+ anyway? I stream music from home using AudioGalaxy, watch BBC iPlayer and all other channels using Catchup TV App fine from my 3G connection.

  • Ronnie Whelan

    Also, no matter what the speed, you don’t have to use any more data, you’ll just receive that data quicker.
    After all, just because you drive a Ferrari it doesn’t mean your journey to work is any further, you just might get there quicker!

    • Martin

      So what is the point in paying the extra for LTE speed? I have a really poor connection speed at home (2meg if I am lucky). Due to the poor speed I don’t use any streaming services like netflix, if I had a faster connection I would most certainly use more bandwidth. This is the same with people going from 3-4g. They will want to use that speed. If all you need is a 500meg limit, you won’t need to have better than 3g because you clearly are not downloading a huge amount of data.

      • Ronnie Whelan

        “So what is the point in paying the extra for LTE speed?” To download/upload things quicker.
        I understand that people are likely to want to use more data if it’s faster, but the point I was making was that you don’t *have* to use the extra data, just because you are getting it quicker.

        Personally, I think that if you’re an early adopter you’re going to have to pay extra for this premium service. At the moment it’s a luxury to have 4G, but when it becomes widespread and taken up by more carriers the price will come down and the caps will be lifted.

  • I agree with Jon – the main bone of contention is the restricted data packages.
    EE seems to be selling us a sports car whilst we are all on mopeds, but the reality is, those sports cars come with the same tiny fuel tank. Sure, you can zoom down the road, but that’s it. EE’s business proposition needs rethinking.

  • I’ll say it again – what about those who will never use 4g whether its no coverage or not wanting it. If these tarrifs are the only ones I can see a lot of people leaving inc my self.

    Tuning to the speed issue how many people will read the tag line ‘ * up to….. speeds ‘ and actually take notice until they are disappointed.

    4G, nice but too expensive and will have quality issues – may be in a few years….

  • Sean

    So we get 7 minutes of 4G speed from EE for £15/month….No thanks mate!

  • Sean

    Just seen the charges… make that £36/month. What a joke.

  • DanielM

    they said its capped at 12Mbps. Back to the old t-mobile days….. But with a orange price plan and orange data network