Pricing for the U.K.’s first 4G/LTE network has been revealed. The new 4GEE tariffs start at £36 per month for a plan with a mere 500MB of data, and rise to £56 for an 8GB plan. The 4GEE network, a joint venture between the Orange and T-Mobile carrier brands — which merged to create the Everything Everywhere joint venture (now EE) back in 2010, is due to go live on October 30. On that date all Orange and T-Mobile stores will also be rebranded EE.
While EE’s field tests have achieved download speed tests on the 4GEE network of more than 50Mbps the average real-world download speeds for users are likely to be a much more modest 8Mbps to 12Mbps — albeit still around five times faster than the average 3G download rate, according to EE. That said, the company isn’t giving 4GEE users any speed guarantees but a company spokesman told TechCrunch they are aiming for a “desired minimum” of 10Mbps. As EE builds its network footprint out in the coming years it will also be investing in network capacity to ensure it can maintain this informal speed floor, he added.
4GEE consumer price plans and services
All 4GEE phone plans are two-year contracts (update: EE has now announced 12-month plans and handset prices too); include unlimited texts and calls; access to BT Wi-Fi hotspots; and do allow VoIP and tethering. There are five consumer tariffs for 4GEE phone plans. Here’s the full breakdown
Consumers who exceed their data limit can buy data add-ons, costing £3 for 50MB; £6 for 500MB; £16 for 2GB; and £20 for 4GB. EE says it will warn customers when they have used up 80 percent of their limit by sending a text message. A second warning will be sent when they have used up all that month’s data — along with pop-ups giving them the option to purchase a data add-on.
One way to gobble up your data quickly will be to make a lot of use of EE’s new Film Store service via 4G. The Film Store will offer films for download or streaming, plus trailers, cinema listings and a new two for one cinema ticket offer (duplicating the Orange Wednesdays offer), with a catalogue of more than 700 films in total. EE is offering new customers one free film download per week for the first four months — which won’t eat into their data allowance. Any additional films will eat data, and also cost money to download/stream (with prices starting from 79p). The cost of downloads can be charged to customers’ mobile bills or credit/debit cards.
Photo messages, roaming calls and texts can all be bolted on to the phone tariffs at extra cost. On select higher tariffs (£41 per month+) consumers can choose a free add-on — of either Deezer‘s music service access; a games service with two free downloads per month; or a live mobile TV streaming service with up to 19 channels.
Another new service launching with 4GEE is called Clone Phone — costing from free for a basic version to £6 per month — which offers secure data backup and restore services for phone content (such as contacts, calendar, photos, video, music), with options to bundle it with phone replacement services for lost/stolen handsets. The service includes a find my phone GPS tracking and remote lock and wipe feature.
4GEE small business price plans
Small business pricing was also announced today. The basic SME 4GEE phone tariff is £30 for 1GB of data, rising to a £50 plan with 16GB of monthly data. Here’s the breakdown
EE is also offering shared data tariffs for SMEs so they can spread data usage limits across employees. These packages start at £15 per user — or £25 per user if each user has a 4GB allowance — plus whatever shared data/minutes/texts the business wants to apportion to their users collectively
Broadband — mobile and fixed line fibre — and SIM free 4GEE
If you love your 3G handset too much to upgrade to a 4G one, there’s always 4G mobile broadband. EE is offering 4G mobile broadband plans — either via a USB stick or Wi-Fi dongle (with support for up to five devices connected at once). All these tariffs run for 18 months. There are three plans for consumers: £15.99 per month for 2GB of data; £20.99 for 3GB; or £25.99 for 5GB (including VAT) — and three for SMEs: £13.33 for 2GB; £17.49 for 3GB; and £21.66 for 5GB (excluding VAT).
Twelve month SIM-only 4GEE plans will also be available from November 9 — with prices starting at £21 per month.
EE has announced pricing for its high speed fibre broadband network too, which it’s launching alongside 4G on October 30 — covering 11 million U.K. homes and businesses initially. EE’s consumer fibre broadband plans all run for 18 months and start at £15 per month for a 38Mbps service capped at 40GB of data or £20 for unlimited data; or £25 for a 76Mbps service with unlimited data — plus a £14 per month line rental charge and a one-off £50 connection fee.
EE is offering discounts to consumers who sign up for home broadband and mobile plans — of up to £120 off the cost of their phone plan (or £5 per month).
Where is 4GEE launching?
The 4GEE network will launch in 10 cities when it goes live at the end of the month — with London, Manchester, Birmingham, Leeds, Liverpool, Bristol, Cardiff, Edinburgh, Glasgow and Sheffield first in the queue. Some parts of an eleventh city (Southampton) will also be covered from launch, according to EE CEO Olaf Swantee. A further five cities – Belfast, Hull, Derby, Nottingham and Newcastle – will be added by the end of the year. Swantee said EE has an “aggressive” rollout schedule for the network, with a plan to cover 98 percent of the U.K.’s population by the end of 2014.
Swantee said the network rollout is being built “very much from the centre out”, with city centres being covered first before moving out to greater metropolitan areas. However he said EE is also trialling 4G in rural locations. “We are going to work very hard in the beginning of next year to cover Cornwall, Cumbria and Northern Ireland — the first three regions where we will rollout 4G,” he said.
What’s happening to EE’s 3G?
The company is also continuing to invest in its 3G network — with 40 percent of the network due to be upgraded to faster 3G variant, DC-HSPA, by the end of the year. The 3G network will continue to carry mobile data in areas where the 4G rollout hasn’t rolled out yet. EE is also using Circuit Switched Fallback (CSF) to carry voice over 4G — which means that when a 4GEE phone user receives a call the handset switches back to the 3G network for the duration of the call. Any browsing done during a phone call will be carried out over 3G, then once the call is terminated the session switches back onto the 4G network. An EE spokesman said the company had been looking to use VoLTE (Voice over LTE) originally but after looking at the use of CSF in the South Korean 4G market had decided CSF was a good enough stand in. “For now, from a customer experience point of view, we’re perfectly happy with it,” he said, although he conceded it’s not a solution for the long term for a packet network, and added that EE will “probably be looking to trial VoLTE” in future.
When will other 4G networks launch in the U.K.?
While EE is the U.K.’s first 4G network, the company’s headstart has been shortened by around half a year, following crunch talks between the operators. These talks were aimed at avoiding further legal action to delay the launch of 4G in the U.K. by reducing the time to market for the other carriers, O2 and Vodafone, who are still waiting to acquire the spectrum they will use to run their 4G services. Early this month the U.K.’s telecoms regulator Ofcom announced that progress had been made to speed up the timetable for deploying 4G by up to five months by accelerating the spectrum clearance process. A joint venture has also now been set up by the four main carriers to speed up spectrum clearance in the 800MHz band — currently used for TV broadcasts — and ensure any TV signal interference is resolved. It’s likely that O2 and Vodafone will be able to launch 4G networks from Spring 2013.