We will win in the 4G operator wars

I was both surprised and impressed when I opened my email this morning. EE was shouting from the rooftops – through text form of course – that it had reached its goal of signing up one million customers to its 4G services four months early.

Considering how low initial take up figures had been and surveys from the likes of YouGov saying no-one was bothered about 4G, I was happy to give a hat tip to the joint venture. Ok, one million is nothing compared to the other 27 million customers they have who are content with their 3G deals, but it showed the network investment was finally starting to pay off and there was momentum in the market.

But the next email I received showed why that traction was there. Recent entrants to the game Vodafone announced today it would offer 4GB of additional data for free, every month until the end of their contract, to any customer who signed up to its 4G services before the end of October.

That is a stunning amount of data for nothing if you consider all the battles customers have had with their operators for pretending 1GB is enough for the average user – especially when it is natural for a faster connection to entice you to use mobile data more.

Back in 2012 when Ofcom announced it was to allow EE to repurpose its existing spectrum for 4G whilst others had to wait for what then seemed an elusive spectrum auction, I had quite strong feelings against it, fearing for the lack of competition. As time passed by, I was less concerned as it seemed the market was saying no to 4G and awaiting for choice to be available anyway.

EE may be ahead of the game with the speed and coverage and no-one seems to have massively shifted on price, but now the rivalries are hotting up, customers are winning with extras like sports and music services, or tons more data. Even I admitted this morning I was finally thinking of making the move to a 4G contract – yes, even tech journos have concerns about upgrading.

Undoubtedly O2 will come out with its own tempting bundle in the next few days to ramp it up further and more and more people will be looking at 4G contracts and thinking maybe its worth it.

But, I am still excited to see what happens when Three – the operator who has promised no premium pricing for 4G and unlimited data allowances – come to market with its services in December. If swathes of customers migrate to that network, the other big three operators will have to think about bringing those prices down.

Ok, maybe I will hold out just a little longer then… but in the meantime, it is good to see the UK getting on-board with speedy connectivity and being rewarded for the long wait.

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