EE set up their 4G network a year ahead of their competitors and they are only recently being chased by O2 and Vodafone, who have far from widespread coverage and are currently catching up to EE, who have an established 4.2 million customers and 5,500 corporates using 4G. Vodafone and O2 each have only one million customers using 4G.
230 towns and cities have access to 4G (approximately 70% of the population), with little or no access to 4G in rural areas. James Arnold Roberts, director at Genius Networks adds that pricing for 4G has been made deliberately high to control the number of adopters and manage capacity usage. The pricing will drop as the network begins to build and adapt. Wholesale opportunities for 4G have been slower than consumer sales, likely due to mobile operators wanting large volumes of handset subscribers.
According to an industry insider, EE plans to have 6 million 4G customers by the end of the year. However, the increase in data traffic has slowed connection speeds for consumers, forcing EE to create a double speed 4G network, with 1 in 3 new customers signing up to this new service.
So, is there a real need for a 4G network? Graham Sutherland, CEO of BT Business, states that 24% of employees work regularly out of the office. This on its own would probably justify the need for 4G, which is cheaper for temporary outdoor events than Wi-Fi or fixed line alternatives and can also be used to provide security systems to a site, such as video surveillance. However, 4G is not good for app updates, as a mobile device will insist on trying to use Wi-Fi, and few business applications are being developed for 4G. So, it’s a bit of a mixed picture – typical for the mobile industry really…
4G will probably be useful for the future use of cloud based technology on smartphone devices. With current 4G speeds of 300Mbps (megabits per second)- the kinds of speeds you used to only get on a fixed line – why would you need speeds faster than this? Well, just for the early adopters, 5G has already been announced as the ‘next big thing’ and is planned to be first introduced to London in 2020. No specification has yet been published for 5G, and no clues to possible network speeds are available, so watch this space.