The UK now has super fast 4G mobile broadband thanks to mobile operator EE (previously called Everything Everywhere).
I say the ‘UK’ and ‘superfast’ with a pinch of salt. The fact is only 11 cities currently have access to the EE 4G network and another 5 should have the service sometime before Christmas 2012. The rest of the country will get the service in 2013 and 2014.
The maximum real world speeds are expected to be in the region of 12Mbps, which is actually no quicker than the latest 3G technology (DC-HSDPA+) currently being rolled out by Three and Vodafone. To make matters worse, the 4GEE network has virtually no users and so the load is minimal and speeds will be at their best. As more users sign up and the network load increases the maximum data speeds will undoubtedly drop to the lower estimated real world figure of 8Mbps, which is considerably slower than the latest 3G networks offer.
EE expect the day to day running costs of 4G to be less than that of 3G, because more data can transmitted into a smaller slice of the airwaves. However the cost to the customer is expected to be about £5 more than an equivalent 3G service. EE say this is to cover the huge investment they’ve had to make in the new 4G network and ongoing development costs.
Of course, your current 3G phone will not work on the EE 4G network, so you’ll need to get a new compatible phone. 4G phones costs in the region of £100 for an entry model and many hundreds of pounds for the top end Apple, Nokia and Samsung phones.
Mobile data users who want 4G access will need to get a new modem or mobile hotspot device. EE currently offer the Huawei E392 USB modem and Huawei E589 mobile WiFi for free when signing up to a data plan of £25.99 or more for 18 months. For most customers it makes sense to go with the mobile WiFi device as it means older 3G iPads, tablets etc can use the 4G network via WiFi.
If you do go with 4G you might also want to consider buying a second battery or high capacity battery for your mobile device, as 4G drains batteries even quicker than 3G.
There is some good news; all phone plans come with unlimited voice (UK only) and texts! There are the usual exceptions such 118 numbers and premium rate lines etc.
The bad news is that the data packages are small. Expect to pay £36 (cheapest) per month for 500MB and £56 (most expensive) for 8GB. These prices are for a 24 month contract.
Mobile broadband only users pay £15.99 per month for 2GB, £29.99 for 3GB and £25.99 for 5GB.
As a rough guide, watching a program for 1 hour on the BBC’s iPlayer equates to about 250MB
I for one shall be sticking with my current Three data plan which is cheaper, has better coverage and just as fast as the services currently available from EE.
Author: Robert Cutts