EE – Is It really all that bad?

So, 4G is live in 12 cities, the tech journalists have busied themselves speed testing from every street, from inside buildings, outside shopping centres and some have even got up at silly o’clock just to drive somewhere and check the speeds that can be achieved (now who would do that??).

The company behind 4G in the UK, EE, have come in for some real flack from all quarters.  People are claiming that the tariffs are too expensive, there is not enough data allowance and that the 4G network isn’t good enough.

So, are EE really as bad as is being made out or are people complaining simply for complaining ’s sake?

The new tariffs and data allowances were eagerly awaited by many.  Our own Dan Carter was a constant thorn in the side of EE, badgering them endlessly for information.  The @EE twitter account was awash with queries from people wanting to know costs.  When they were finally released I think it is fair to say that their was a collective sharp intake of breath swiftly followed by shouts of HOW MUCH?!?!?

Indeed even BBC’s Watchdog got in on the act, social media was full of complaints and still the rumblings can be heard.

Of course, there are those that will use gigabytes of data every month, but lets be honest, EE are correct when they claim that they are “super-techies.”  I’m also going to side with EE when they say that despite the faster speed you still won’t be downloading any more.

EE    Is It really all that bad?

The poster from EE says it all.  Lets say you are streaming music.  You may well want to listen to two albums on your way to work.  4G will deliver each song to you in a couple of seconds as opposed to 30 seconds + for 3G.  It is still going to take you the same amount of time to listen to the music that you are streaming on the 4G network as it would if you were streaming it from the 3G network.  The same goes for video.  Just because you can stream it to your handset quicker doesn’t mean you can watch it at 4 times the speed as well.  It currently takes around 2 -10 seconds to load a webpage on 3G, it may well take only a second to load it on 4G.  How much more data are you going to use in that possible 9 second saving?  EE are totally correct when they claim that the data may well get to you quicker, the problem lies in the fact that the end user cannot use it any faster.

Which brings us to cost.  Another complaint is the cost of the tariffs that were announced.  With plans ranging from £36 right up to £56 per month the tariffs certainly couldn’t aren’t the cheapest on the market.  In the UK 4G is a new technology.  A significant outlay is required in setting up the network, testing and rolling it out across the country.  I have had several conversations recently with EE network specialists and executives who revealed that the network is spending upwards of £1 million each and every week in rolling out 4G across the country increasing the coverage by 70km squared a week.  Lets be honest, EE is a business and at the very least has to recoup costs in order to carry on trading.  This coupled with the fact that traditionally costs for new technology are always higher puts a little perspective on the prices in my eyes.

By this time next year there should be more than one company operating a 4G network in the UK, with competition in the marketplace the landscape and pricing may well look very different however if o2, Vodafone or 3 launch their own networks with allowances or prices much different from EE’s current offering then I for one will be exceptionally surprised.

As Everything Everywhere, EE bought us the 4G Britain campaign which has led to the country making headway into catching up with the leading nations in mobile network communications.  Without them we would still be waiting for 4G for at least another year if not longer.

So, should we be embracing the new technology at what realistically isn’t an unreasonable cost or complaining that the company that has bought it to us is trying to profiteer from us?  The decision is of course entirely yours  but one thing I do know is that at the first opportunity I shall be switching to ultra fast mobile communications!

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  • Gabriel

    Very good point about speed of consumption. The key is that if 4G connection is on, it doesn’t just keep getting used with other background tasks that eats up the bandwith and battery. If this is not the case, then I think I’ll be happy to switch to EE.

  • Gabriel

    There is one other thing that EE are not doing well though – the distinction between 4G and 3G tariffs is not clear at all. At the moment, EE is for 4G tariffs, but it is not clear where I should go to upgrade my Orange account if I just want a 3G tariff. I tried calling Orange and on 3 occasions waited >20mins then had to hang up…
    Any ideas anyone?

  • I actually agree with your points but disagree with the conclusion. I signed up to the T-Mobile £36 per month plan with my iPhone 5 on the promise of a comparable plan when 4 G launched. I get unlimited data so when I travel I can stream music, on a long journey that can add up to 200M or more of data. There is no comparable plan on EE, I expected to pay a premium but at the moment there nothing even similar. As a result I’ll just stick with 3G, where I’m getting speeds up to 9Mb/s anyway.

    For EE to attract users they have to offer actual benefits, that doesn’t mean they can’t charge a premium but at the moment the old Orange and T-Mobile plans offer a much better deal. Especially in light of your arguments that you can’t consume the data faster so the extra speed is of limited value.

  • Moo Moo Head

    Don’t see what all the fuss is about now, surely if you want faster service you pay more money, that is the same in any industry?

    However, I do not get what they talk about with the ‘it still takes the same amount of time listen/watch’, yes, but you can watch more if your not waiting for download and you can also download higher quality files?

    Also, the shops in my local area are just called EE now, my dad called me at the weekend asking where the Orange shop had moved to, I told him it was called EE now, he said ‘oh, are they like phones4u now’? hahaha.

    On the point of calling them up, my partner was on t-mobile, she waited ages on the line wanting to talk to someone about new deal, on 3G, also my friend is on t-mobile, she waited ages on the phone to talk to someone about 3G, is it the same for the 4G customers the long wait? They have both now decided to leave, one for 3 and one for o2, where they got through instantly.

  • Anonymous

    EE are in a position to charge a premium, but it’s just too much of a premium IMHO. I do kind of agree with Mr. Moo Moo Head below to a point, but I think there’s a balance to be struck. I’d expect to pay a fraction more, but for the price they want at the moment, no thanks very much. I think most people would share this view. Nobody’s being forced to pay these new tariffs, it’s really up to the individual, but I can’t see them selling many. I remember paying a premium for 3G when that first came out, but it didn’t last too long.

    What I really take issue with is the allowances. I would heartily disagree with the premise that you do not use more data just because you have a faster connection. If that were true, we’d all still be sucking down 10MB a month, because of what we were used to with GPRS. Absolute garbage, sorry. When people get used to the extra speed, you start not to bother finding Wifi hotspots to download the bigger stuff or stream – you’d want it over 4G as it’s intended, because the requisite bandwidth is available.

    I would go as far as to say that data allowances should be set at a proportion of the connection speed. So, taking the paltry 500MB figure as a benchmark for 3G, with (for arguments sake) a 7Mb/s connection speed. If you scale the 7Mb/s up to 20Mb/s, 500MB turns into 1.4GB. I think this is actually a fairly reasonable starting point for data these days.

    I fully believe that we should be looking at around 5GB per month average allowance these days. Just take a second to think what you might do with your connection if it were as fast as your home connection, and without the fear of paying the exorbitant costs for extra data!

    To the Mobile Operators credit, however, it is the infrastructure companies who are making all this so expensive. The likes of BT and Cable and Wireless are still in the 90s as far as bandwidth costs go, and they have little to no pressure to change this. If we as a country really want to keep up with the likes of Japan, Korea, even the US, we really need a bit more competition at the backbone level.

    That said, I think 3 have proved that you can give decent data allowances at a reasonable speed without breaking the bank. They still make a good profit.

  • Mr Cynical

    I don’t go with the premise of this article either – speed alone isn’t enough and investment is a way to stay ahead – ‘innovate or die’. £52m a year isn’t that much in the grand scheme of a things and they get payback if they get more subscribers as a result – unless capacity is the issue lying behind low allowance ? I see this as another way to inflate contract costs against a background of downward 3G price plan trends