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.
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!