Opinion: EE & 4G – Is the Future Bright, is it iPhone?

Opinion: EE & 4G   Is the Future Bright, is it iPhone?

Olaf Swantee, CEO of Everything Everywhere took to the stage at the science museum in London this morning and declared that his new brand EE is the future.  The future of digital Britain, the future of telecommunications on these fair islands.

It was a slick presentation, extolling the virtues of the combined brands of Orange and T-Mobile, the speed of their new wireless and fibre networks for both business and the consumer.

Olaf informed us that £1.5 billion has been invested in the network making it the biggest and fastest currently available in the UK.

We were talked through the branding and told that EE isn’t just a company, it’s a brand.

Then came the star of the show, Boris Johnson. Boris was his usual bumbling brilliant self.  After thanking Vodafone for their help during the Olympics and Paralympics Boris went on to welcome the arrival of this “4G revolution” and said “Information will now spout in unbelievable, unstoppable quantities from these devices” while holding aloft some mobile phones.

A few more quips and Boris exited stage left and after more words from Mr Swantee we were given a demonstration of the sheer speed of 4G. Now bearing in mind we were in the deepest recesses of the science museum the handsets being demo’d consistently achieved speeds of over 25mbps.  In real world terms thats a full download of Angry Birds in less than 8 seconds (and yes they showed us!)

So the announcements are over and the tech websites have written their reports but is EE really the future of Britains telecoms industry?

There were some vital things missing from the presentation such as pricing and availability dates.  Whilst we were told that if you have a 4G handset then you could get switched on pretty much straight away, there was no word as to how long it would take for the 4G handsets to become available.

However after the list of handsets had been announced everything else could be forgotten because it wasn’t what was said but more what wasn’t.  Olaf Swantee listed the Huawei, Samsung Galaxy SIII and the brand new Nokia’s.  What Olaf didn’t say were the words “New iPhone”, but with a slight pause he did say “and other devices will follow VERY soon”.  Who can forget that the Apple announcements are scheduled for tomorrow.

With the list of handsets announced being rather high end and with the new iPhone being very strongly hinted at, EE has clearly gone with a premium strategy.  The handsets will appeal to the early adopters who more often than not choose high end equipment and by the time more cities are switched on (16 by the end of the year) more handsets should be available across the range and at the end of 2014 when there is 98% coverage the word should have been spread and more and more people with all levels of budget will want to join the party.

There is no denying EE got lucky.  The merger of Orange and T-Mobile gave them the 4G bandwith and OFCOM gave them permission to use it.  Overall though the luck doesn’t matter, financial results don’t care what luck came a company’s way, nor do customers when trying to get the best offer.

EE have the monopoly on 4G for at least a year.  They have a shot at 4G on the new Nokia’s while all the other networks are stuck on 3G, they may well have the sole 4G rights on the new iPhone as well as a number of other devices.  The opportunity to build a massive lead awaits, the future may well no longer be orange but for EE it certainly is bright.