4G carrier EE, the freshly rebranded parent of Orange and T-Mobile in the U.K. which also owns and operates the U.K.’s first (and currently only) 4G/LTE network, has revealed it’s behind schedule to launch SIM-only tariffs. The SIM-only plans were supposed to be available from today but a tweet from the EE Twitter account late yesterday announced the plans would be delayed by up to two weeks.
SIM-only plans have been a popular option in the UK on 3G networks because they allow mobile users who already own a working handset to join a network without being tied to a lengthy contract (provided their handset is network unlocked). There are various retailers offering SIM-free handsets to buy so there’s a ready supply of unlocked mobile hardware to use in conjunction with SIM-only deals. Various outlets also offer phone unlocking services.
The 4G situation is more complicated than the 3G ecosystem, as hardware needs to be using the same spectrum band as the network to be compatible with it. In EE’s case the spectrum band it’s using for 4G is 1,800MHz — so only devices that have a radio which supports 1,800MHz will be able to use the network.
EE announced pricing for the SIM-only deals last month. At the time it said it will be offering 12 month SIM-only 4GEE plans from £21 per month. Data limits are the same as for all its other plans — so starting at 500MB and rising to 8GB per month. There are no unlimited data plans.
Asked about the delay to the launch of SIM-only EE provided the following statement: “The launch of SIM only plans (due Nov 9) will be delayed by a few days as a result of our comprehensive testing process over-running slightly. We know many customers are anticipating these plans and apologise for this short hold up. However they will be reassured that we are determined to offer the very best service possible.” Update: EE provided a second statement — presumably to correct the impression that the delay would only be a matter of days (rather than potentially two weeks). Here’s the second statement: “Our 4GEE SIM only plans will now be launching within the next two weeks. We know many customers are keen to get their hands on our SIM only plans and we are looking forward to offering them as soon as our testing process is complete. We apologise for any inconvenience this may cause.”
Since launching the 4G network at the end of October EE said it’s seen “thousands” of signs ups — for both 4G and a fixed line fibre broadband service it launched at the same time. It would not clarify whether this is single digit thousands or more, and what proportion of sign ups are specifically for 4G.
“The launch of our new brand and the UK’s first mobile 4G network has been a great success, with a huge amount of new customers and enquiries already. The network is performing well and, importantly, the roll-out continues to gather pace,” it added in a statement.