The news that EE’s 4G rollout will begin on October 30th has had mobile fanatics across the country (well, in the ten launch cities), understandably excited.
The new, speedy network has the potential to transform our relationship with the internet on-the-go, making video consumption swifter and easier and possibly leading to a wholesale change in how we consume the web in general. But there are caveats. Big ones. And perhaps the biggest of all is financial.
4G is not going to be cheap, and in the days and weeks before EE reveals its 4G plans, there’s understandably going to be a lot of talk about how much it’s going to cost and whether it’s likely to be worth the extra money.
Be under no illusion: If you want an iPhone 5, Samsung Galaxy S3 or HTC One XL using 4G on EE from 30 October, you’ll be paying heftily for the privilege.
Received wisdom suggests this could be anything north of £10 per month on top of a standard contract, meaning a basic 24-month deal will be at least £40, most likely more.
That’s a huge hit to take, especially as mobile contracts aren’t exactly easy to negotiate once you’ve signed up.
So if you want to get on board early, expect to be paying heavily and wincing once O2, Vodafone and Three look to strike back at EE early next summer, when their 4G contracts are unveiled.
These rivals know that they need to undercut EE in order to gain traction and make up lost ground after EE was given a head start by Ofcom. 4G is going to be an absolute game changer, of that’s there’s no doubt.
But it will only become one quickly if the networks are willing to offer affordable deals to everyone and explain the technology in a simple and effective manner.
Hardcore phone fanatics are not the target here (they’re already champing at the bit). Rather, it’s all about average consumers with a fairly high budget who want the best but not at eye-watering prices.
Three will doubtless look to pull its usual, smart trick of offering cut-price deals compared to its competitors. This is all the better. If we as consumers don’t get a good deal, then 4G won’t develop on these shores as fast as it should do.
That’s not just bad news for you and me and our mobile data addictions. It’s bad news for the UK as a whole.
This technology is transformative and has the power to make business and communications better than ever. If deals are too costly, we could be left lagging even further behind countries who’ve had 4G for years.
It may sound dramatic, but EE and those launching 4G networks next year cannot afford to price people out of the market. Do so and we’ll be counting the cost for years.