Mobile broadband delivers on promise as 4G heads mainstream
4G mobile networks are going mainstream in the UK with O2 and Vodafone launching services at the end of August in a bid to take on EE which launched in November 2012. Three plans to launch before the end of the year. 4G is the next generation of mobile phone network that is six to ten times faster than the existing 3G standard that you almost certainly use for your current mobile phone.
EE, O2 and Vodafone are rolling out the service where they see the greatest opportunity for take-up. The operators have variously stated that they’ll reach up to 98 per cent of the population by 2015.
You’ll need to check the coverage maps but so far Belfast, Blackpool, Birmingham, Bradford, Cardiff, Coventry, Edinburgh, Glasgow, Hull, Leeds, Leicester, Liverpool, Manchester, Newcastle, Nottingham, Sheffield, Southampton and Sunderland are set to be covered by at least one of the operators by the end of the year.
All the operators are likely to face a challenge persuading consumers to adopt the faster technology. 3G is typically good enough for a smart phone user, so why upgrade?
Except 3G isn’t good enough is it? Smart phones are bandwidth hungry devices. 3G is okay for browsing the web but struggles with audio and video streaming.
My view is that the key opportunity for 4G is data services. 4G offers a truly mobile broadband like experience.
We’ve recently bought a houseboat in London. Rather than install a physical broadband connected we’ve opted for a 4G data service from EE. We chose EE after reading reviews by Andrew Grill and Neville Hobson who are both part of the EE ambassador programme.
£17 a month buys you a small Huawei device that connects to the EE network and creates a wi-fi network for up to 10 devices.
We’ve tested the device at a throughput of 2MB upload and 40MB download with three devices connected. A double speed service offered by EE in ten UK cities called 4GEE suggests that this is the norm.
It’s almost too good. The service is capped at 3GB of data per month which is surprisingly easy to rack up, especially when teenagers are in residence.
An Android or iOS app allows you to keep track of usage and you can purchase additional data or upgrade to a larger package. We will almost certainly need to do the latter.
4G delivers the promise of mobile data service for the areas where the network has been rolled out. It really is like being connected to a physical broadband connection or enterprise network.
Bad luck if you’re not in an area where the service is being rolled out. 4G could be a potential solution for broadband roll out in rural areas where physical cabling would be prohibitively expensive.
Update August 29, 2013
EE is a great service until you need help. I want to upgrade my data package from 3GB to 5GB after reaching my data limit twice. On the advice of EE employee David Quainton (@davidlost) via Twitter I spent 20 mins on the phone navigating a call tree and then being passed from T-Mobile to Orange, and back (EE owns T-mobile and Orange in the UK), before being disconnected. I have asked Andrew Grill and Neville Hobson for help and posted about the experience on Twitter. I'll keep you updated.
Update September 1, 2013
Thanks to help from Andrew Grill the issue has been resolved by EE and I'm nowon a 5GB package. Thanks Andrew.