Brits have a talent for aiming high. Everything Everywhere (the result of a merger between Orange and T-mobile) officially launched UK’s first-ever 4G service. EE’s 12 Mbit/s service is now available to subscribers across 11 cities in the UK from London to Glasgow, operating on the 1800 Mhz spectrum. They’ve also opened up a whopping 700 shops to market this service to potential subscribers. At the moment, EE is in a prime position as the only 4G provider in the United Kingdom. Rivals O2 and Vodafone are far behind in terms of 4G. They’re also pretty disgruntled at EE, judging by what they’re saying about it.
The UK Financial times (http://ft.com) reported that Nokia, which is looking to re-enter the fray with Windows-powered Lumia handsets, is in talks with EE to establish the Lumia 920 smartphone as an EE exclusive device.
However, not all is going well for EE. At the moment, a 500 MB data plan costs a staggering 36 sterling pounds. In Sri Lankan terms, that’s Rs. 7532 for a measly 500 MB of data. From a Sri Lankan viewpoint, that’s ridiculously overpriced. Not to mention that EE’s 4G service runs at 12 Mbps. Contrast that with HSPA (theoretical limit: 21 Mbps) and HSPA+ (theoretical limit: 42 Mbps), both of which are well-implemented in the UK. In practice 42 Mbps speeds are still impossible, but for the moment there’s no clear incentive for anyone to switch over to the new 4G network when the existing alternatives are faster and much cheaper.
Yes, as odd as it may sound, 4G does not inherently mean that it’s better. The term “4G” covers a wide range of technologies with several methods of implementation. HSPA+ 21/42 and WiMax are theoretically 4G, though only LTE is publicly considered 4G due to the other not being fast and/or reliable enough. In this case, EE is running LTE, but as of the moment it’s not possible to offer a direct comparison with existing services.
Apparently the UK regulator, Ofcom, is still consulting on what to do with the 1800 Mhz spectrum, so “Everything Everywhere” will remain the sole 4G provider until the government of UK auctions off more spectrum. This is expected to happen in Q1 2013, at which point other operators will be able to enter and competition will lead to price reductions across the board. Until then, EE has got plenty of time to monitor the market and adjust their pricing schemes as they see fit.
Let’s hope that when 4G comes to Sri Lankan shores, it’ll be far cheaper than seven thousand bucks for half a gigabyte.