The 4G tryout

As a big promoter of data use on mobile phones, I’ve already pushed the boundaries. Over a year ago I did the AYCE Challenge on Three and used 44GB in two weeks (no really, here’s my bill). The end result? No extra charge for data use – even 44GB of it.

I was in London for a few days recently and had the chance to test 4G away from shop conditions. I took a 4G EE handset around London with me in different locations. Here’s my findings after a few days use…

Speed Testing:

Speeds at certain times were very impressive. The image below and the video recording above show this. No, you’re not seeing things, that really is 58.09Mbps download and 14.60Mbps upload over a mobile connection, not WiFi! Although speeds were not always like this, typical speeds around London were averaging at about 20Mbps with an upload of around 10Mbps.

There was the odd occasion, mainly when in or around Oxford Street, that speeds would drop quite a bit to around 3Mbps and an upload of around 5Mbps.  It wasn’t only myself who noticed this but was also seen by James from Tracy And Matt who also had a 4G device to test around London.

The 4G tryoutThe 4G tryout

Whilst most people will concentrate mainly on the download speeds, upload speeds are just as important these days for tasks such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and other media sharing websites. YouTube is particularly useful, but you’re uploading HD video so speed is key. Thankfully the superfast upload allowed images to be shared within seconds and a reasonably sized YouTube clip uploaded much faster than a 3G connection.


YouTube Upload 

4G has the potential, if data allowances are right, to change the way you use your phone. In the video above I uploaded a 64MB file over 4G in a matter of seconds against what would have been minutes over 3G.


Tethering, for the uninitiated, is a way of sharing your mobile connection with another device. This took off around the time of the WiFi iPad but has become much more common now for other types of connection including laptops, portable gaming devices and even games consoles.

Data use comes out of the inclusive data package. So, if this is something you are planning on using on 4G, make sure you allocate enough data and choose a higher package. Whilst in London I was able to tether to my MacBook Air and get online to keep up to date. I was also able to join in an hour long Skype call with two other people who commented how good the quality was audio wise from my end, something again that due to the speeds offered 4G was able to help with making better over the 3G experience.


Downloading Apps:

Smartphones these days are full of possibilities. Large on-board storage, big-capacity SD cards and stacks of apps to customise your phone. With all these apps available to download you need a quick connection. You don’t want to be waiting for ages and ages for each to download. These days time is valuable, so if we can download apps in seconds instead of minutes – great.

A lot of apps are around the 5MB mark with some being as high as 15MB, perhaps even more if you grab graphic-heavy games such as “Angry Birds Star Wars” which is around 50MB in size. Although 4G screams speed, you are forced to monitor your usage and perhaps delay some downloads until you’re in WiFi range.


4G Test Conclusion:

So, after using EE 4G for a few days in London and able to travel to different locations to try it out, what are my thoughts on the 4G service in the UK?

First of all the speeds were indeed impressive, even at the 20Mbps this was far better than many home ADSL and even fibre connections. On the few occasions I got over 50Mbps this experience was even better plus, when paired with an upload speed of around 15Mbps, it let me upload content REALLY quickly including rather large size videos to YouTube.

As expected though the worry a lot of people have (myself included) was in the data allowances offered. The faster speed almost willed you into using more data. Straight from the word go, I picked up the Huawei P1 LTE and logged into my Google account. It immediately downloaded all of my contacts, apps, music and burned into my data allowance.

Back in the hotel I decided to tether, just to see what the experience was like. Again, with the speeds on offer, I felt at ease browsing around the web and didn’t hold back. Pretty quickly I’d burst 1GB of data.

4G will not be for everyone, there’s deals out there that offer unlimited internet over 3G speeds and, with DC-HSDPA you’re getting rapid downloads. 4G is really for people who want to be first with new technology and show off how fast their connection is to family and friends. The heavy data users will find that whilst it’s ‘fun’ to have the latest service, you’ll soon be keeping a look out on your data use.

To be fair the 500MB plan is not going to be much use for a lot of people. The speeds you get on 4G mean that you’ll easily break that limit. Ideally 3GB should be the starting point. The 8GB plan offers more than enough data for most people considering there are options to add more data, but this again comes at a cost.

Big thanks to the team at EE for arranging a 4G device for my short yet eventful trip into London.

Link – EE

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  • DanielM

    You being a Journo, Reviewer are likely to get a better priority on the network,

  • Moo Moo Head

    no, I think if you get the speeds in and around Oxford Street where there is a greater density of people, EE phone shops etc then surely this is a pointer to what speeds will be like once people have moved over to 4G en-mass?

    Very few people I know have swapped to 4G service (mainly due to price, in fact my missis is now moved to 3), if everyone I know on Orange or T-Mobile moved I think the speeds received would shrink drastically?

    It is like testing the time to travel in your car between London and Leeds on the M1 when only a few people have access to the road.

  • Anon

    How did phone calls behave when u were downloading? Lest us not forget that a mobile phone is primarily a phone for most!!! – The clue is in the name!

    • DanielM

      There would not have been any. phone calls don’t work on 4g, the phone has to switch back to 3g or 2g to make calls.

      • Anon

        So if it switches back to 2G or 3G on an incoming call does the data download stop? Thats not much good if that happens!!! When it restarts does it start from the beginning effectively doubling (or more depending on the number of times its interrupted) the amount of data downloaded?

        • DanielM

          No it doesnt stop it just switches to 3g mode. so downloading will continue although possibly at a reduced rate. Think of it as switching from 3g Mode to HSDPA mode.

    • Anonymous

      Well, I’m not so sure that’s the case any more. I certainly use my phone more for Internet than phone calls, and I know a great number of people to whom this also applies. I, like many, have a high minute talk plan just so I have more data to play with that won’t cost me the earth. I normally use 100 mins a month or less, yet will happily munch through more than 1GB.