Poll – Is speed what you want, what you really, really, want?

According to Wikipedia EE have around 28 million customers in the UK. That’s Wikipedia numbers though, so I wanted to be sure about this before I started to write this article. The Q3 2012 financial figures seem to have a slightly different number.. …

EE is the most advanced digital communications company in Britain, providing mobile and fixed line services to 27 million customers, and will soon become the first company in the UK to provide 4G mobile services alongside fixed-line fibre.

There’s a big mix of customers here though. Home users and prepay customers, so I dug further down into the numbers. Unfortunately I couldn’t find out exactly how many customers were on contracts, but luckily some slightly older data from 2011 showed 12.529 million contract customers.


Based on these figures, and the fact that EE mentioned that they were aiming to get one million 4G users by Christmas, they’ll still only have less than 8% of their current contract customer base on 4G if they do hit one million. Also, that’s around 3.7% of the total EE customer base.

Just yesterday EE announced that their 4G network will be getting a significant boost. An increase in spectrum and an even faster speed delivered to their 4G customers.. VROOM!

Why? Well, other networks, armed with dual-channel HSDPA (a 3G technology), have started to deliver speeds which aren’t far off the existing EE 4G speeds. The Three CEO seemed fairly relaxed about the roll-out of 4G and they weren’t in a rush to deliver it. Why? Well, because they have this lovely image showing how the then-4G speeds compared to their DC-HSDPA 3G speeds..

Poll   Is speed what you want, what you really, really, want?

..and this, my friends, was part of the pain that EE 4G was feeling. The 4G side of the EE network, in my opinion, is struggling to sell the technology to people. There’s a few more reasons other than the previous not-totally-significant-speed-improvements though.

First is the cost. People aren’t keen on paying a premium to switch from their existing EE 3G plans to an EE 4G plan. Second is the data allowance. For £36 per month the network which screams “speed, superfast, SPEED, SPEEED” seems to be pushing the unlimited calls and texts instead of a large data allowance…

Poll   Is speed what you want, what you really, really, want?

For £36 per month, which in my eyes is the price-point a lot of people go for, you’re getting 500MB per month to use. It’s like owning a Ferrari. Sure, you’ll beat your neighbours to the supermarket, but you can’t drive it quickly for quite as long as you’d like.

However, whilst I understand that 500MB is suitable for many and is the average consumption for the majority of users, it seems at odds with a network that keeps banging on about “Superfast 4GEE”.

I understand why EE have strapped a turbo to their 4G masts. They will soon be able to say that their 4G, which uses some rather large chunks of spectrum, is better and faster than even the very best 3G network. They can perhaps even say that their 4G is faster than the 4G you’ll receive from other networks. It gives them an edge, a unique selling proposition.

Poll   Is speed what you want, what you really, really, want?

But..

The EE 4G roll-out is still under way. Whilst they have a massive lead on other networks, there’s now a second roll-out as engineers increase speeds for Birmingham, Bristol, Cardiff, Edinburgh, Glasgow, Leeds, Liverpool, London, Manchester and Sheffield. Speed, speed, speed. It’s a key selling point, but if we assume that you’re standing in the middle of Birmingham and get the new 20Mbps speeds then you’ll not really get to use that speed for long.

Yes, the additional speed will make apps download quicker and you can start playing games a few milliseconds before your 3G friends. Yes, you can grab those MP3’s and listen to them fast, but if you dare to download something chunky from Dropbox or share files, your 500MB will be gone in just over 3 and a bit minutes (20Mbps = 150MB downloaded per minute).

EE though, as I’ve mentioned below, have a difficult line to tread. They know that people will use this ultra-fast network as a quick-fix when they find that a fixed-line fibre / FTTC / ADSL connection isn’t available or is far slower than their 4G mobile.

The network has chosen to get ahead and keep their edge by emphasizing the speed aspect, but I’d love to know … is speed what you want? Or is coverage and a fast-enough speed yout thing?

Our poll

Let us know in the comments section and now via our poll. This poll will also be displayed on the main pages of Coolsmartphone, so you can vote at any time. It’s easy enough, just three questions. Click the “Vote” button after each one…

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