You might need deep pockets for 4G

Today is a memorable day in the worlds of television and mobile. It may not be one celebrated with balloons or mourned with Robbie Williams’ songs but it does mark a significant change in the technological landscape of the UK.

The last analogue television signal was switched off this morning in the final bastion of traditional TV, Northern Ireland. The ‘digital switchover’ from terrestrial has been making its way across the UK for five years now, knocking out signals and moving people onto Freeview, cable or satellite for their viewing pleasures, but now the change is complete meaning clearer pictures and no more Ceefax.

But, once you have shed your nostalgic tear, wipe it away and remember this means the frequencies taken up by channels one to five are now free for what we have all been waiting for… 4G mobile connectivity.

There is still some work to do and the auction to pick up these spectrum bands is not due until the end of the year but the company which can give us the speed we desire is using today’s significant milestone to whet our appetites.

EE will launch its new network – albeit only in 10 cities to begin with – on 20 October, but the company today revealed its new pricing. The reaction has been somewhat mixed.

The plus point is unlimited texts and minutes are included as standard in any contract. This makes sense, with people increasingly using their data allowance to connect than calls or SMS.

The negative, however, is the seemingly stingy data allowance for the entry consumer option.

For £36 per month a user will get 500MB of 4G. Now, mobile operators kept arguing with 3G that this was more than enough for the average user – although even EE calls this the ‘light use’ package – but with the improvements in mobile broadband speeds, there is no doubt users will consume more data, eating up this limit quicker than they would on their previous 3G contracts.

For a more reasonable 1GB limit, the price is £41 per month, but this to me is just too high. Numerous executives of all the big mobile guns have told me the £35 mark we are at now for the top end smartphones is really the most people want to pay and, let’s face it, unless they can expense it through work, they would not pay the higher prices.

The allowance and price points go up as follows: £46 for 3GB, £51 for 5GB and £56 for 8GB. Now, you may think only the craziest obsessive phone user might reach that dizzy height but with average speeds of 12Mbps promised by EE, it won’t take long to gobble this up.  

EE is promising free BT Wi-Fi for users and is enticing them with EE Film, giving customers one free movie download each week.

But with coverage in so few places to start with and EE being the only ones on the market to offer the 4G capabilities, I think I will be waiting until there is a stronger network across the UK and more operators coming up with their own deals.

It was the issue I had from the start with EE being allowed to repurpose its spectrum and be the first to market. It meant it would be the one to set the pricing structure and it could charge what it liked, knowing no one else can offer the service.

When all of the operators are offering 4G, prices will be brought down and the fight will be on to win people over, which can only result in better deals for the customers.

For me, I will go with the first one offering unlimited data. So Vodafone, O2, Three, any of you tempted? 

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