There’s been quite a backlash following last week’s announcement of the 4G pricing on EE. Customers and commentators variously described it as a con and a rip-off. We wrote an in-depth analysis of the price scheme and what the tariffs would mean for you. But now EE have been trying to respond to the complaints and explain how it came to the prices it did.
We had various issues with the pricing of EE’s 4G tariffs. All had the same root cause – data pricing in the UK is exorbitant in general and will stay that way as long as customers let the mobile networks get away with it. The prices we have to pay as customers bear no resemblance to the actual charges incurred by mobile companies. Part of that is because none of the networks saw the importance of mobile internet quickly enough so they are all still playing catch-up. But another more important reason was something we didn’t touch upon so much in our first article: the decline of voice.
At the moment, Orange and T-Mobile (who make up EE) get most of their revenue for voice calls. By charging up to 25p/minute on PAYG and will expensive contracts, they get a huge amount of profit by charging high prices for making calls. However, with the rise of mobile internet, people use their phones to make calls less and less. Part of this is also due to applications such as Skype and the rise of VoIP. The phone companies are greedily trying to recoup their profits from other products and overpriced mobile internet is the obvious place to look.
So how are EE trying to justify this? Well to start with, they are saying because 4G makes such a difference compared to regular 3G, because it’s so much faster, it’s worth paying a premium for. We already covered this in our article though – there’s no point at all in have superfast internet if you can run through your allowance in a few minutes. Or if it costs more than a tenner to use it to watch a programme on iPlayer or 4od.
EE countered that customers aren’t using mobile data like that. They aren’t rushing through their allowances quickly or watching a lot of TV. Instead they are using their home wifi. This is completely missing the point. Customers aren’t using up their allowances in a matter of minutes because they can’t afford to. They have to be constantly vigilant and cripple their usage to ensure they have enough data left at the end of the month to check their emails. What’s the point of having fast 4G if you have to use it as if it were 3G? The same applies to not using it to watch streaming video and TV. And in any case, they are paying a separate company for their wifi connection and if they are using wifi for streaming why bother with 4G?
Another big criticism we had was the lack of unlimited tariffs. EE went on to say that most customers use only about 1 or 2 GB a month even on unlimited tariffs. But surely that’s largely because 3G is too slow to download much more than that? And many others don’t use much data to keep within their limits and avoid huge overage charges. EE are constantly drilling home the point that 4G is so much faster than 3G. But it’s so fast you can’t use it or you’ll use up your allowance. The point of 4G is it’s meant to open up all these opportunities to use mobile internet in a new way but with strict low data limits, this can’t happen.
Any, underlying all this, 1GB of data is 1GB of data whether you get it at 4G speeds or 3G speeds. The simple facts are you have to pay more for the same amount of data with EE. And compared to packages on Orange and T-Mobile, you have no option to go for an unmetered all-inclusive package to save having to constantly worry about how much data you’re using. There’s really no excuse for not offering unlimited internet tariffs as an option.
So while we have some sympathy for EE trying to make the most of their 4G monopoly and squeeze every last penny out, we still think they are conning customers and doing mobile data provision in the UK a disservice as a whole. From reading around it seems that nobody’s buying EE’s excuses right now. A braver forward thinking company would do things completely differently. What a shame.