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28 October 201226 Comments by Jon M

Can EE defend its 4G pricing?

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.

26 Responses to “Can EE defend its 4G pricing?”

  1. will 18 May 2013 at 18:27 Permalink

    I have unlimited 4g data on my £35 a month contract with a free note ii and its awesome. I don’t even need or have a broadband connection as I can tether up to 10 devices via wifi.

  2. DanielM 30 October 2012 at 12:20 Permalink

    And here is proof you can use more than 2GB…

    • Mobile Network Comparison 30 October 2012 at 12:23 Permalink

      Nice 🙂 Like we said – it was exaggeration but the point is it’s sometimes hard to use as much bandwidth as you’d like due to flaky 3G connections. We’ve tested in a large city and get less than 1 Mbps and streaming doesn’t work at all.

      Is that on T-Mobile?

      • DanielM 30 October 2012 at 12:34 Permalink

        Yep that’s t-mobile..

        • Mobile Network Comparison 30 October 2012 at 12:37 Permalink

          Are you on the unlimited plan then? They aren’t bothered about your use? And have you tried in other parts of the UK?

          • DanielM 30 October 2012 at 12:40 Permalink

            yep. i have tethering too so its all good 🙂 and yes so far mcr city center and lancaster. both as good.

            • Mobile Network Comparison 30 October 2012 at 12:44 Permalink

              So you find it reliable enough to use instead of broadband? How much do you pay a month? What about torrenting?

              • DanielM 30 October 2012 at 12:48 Permalink

                It’s actually faster than my home internet (Which gets around 15Mbps), Although on average pings are slightly higher (40-50Ms)

                And yep it’s an ideal replacement since i got rid of the ADSL. and sadly bittorrent is blocked 🙁

                but will work fine over VPN.

                • Mobile Network Comparison 30 October 2012 at 12:50 Permalink

                  How is it blocked? The protocol itself, the ports or just tracker websites?

                • DanielM 30 October 2012 at 12:53 Permalink

                  It’s a signature block (Very Deep packet inspection). So its blocked no matter what port you use (Except when using a vpn)

                  strangely no torrent sites are blocked, even tpb works fine.

                • Mobile Network Comparison 30 October 2012 at 13:05 Permalink

                  That’s not really on. We don’t understand how using a VPN changes things though…

                • DanielM 30 October 2012 at 13:09 Permalink

                  Well as you probably know once a vpn is online (COnnected) all traffic goes through it.

                  So even if something is blocked on an internet connection (Such as TPB being censored) using a vpn would make it perfectly accessible. Basicaly your traffic goes through another network.

                • Mobile Network Comparison 30 October 2012 at 13:20 Permalink

                  We get that. But how come the traffic doesn’t get detected coming from the VPN to you?

                • DanielM 30 October 2012 at 13:27 Permalink

                  well i run the vpn server and i have the vpn apn on my account..

  3. DanielM 29 October 2012 at 10:12 Permalink

    “because 3G is too slow to download much more than that”

    Nonsense. I can easily get 16Mbps+ on my mobile. and can use alot more than 2GB as can most people.

    Looks like you have falen for there sales trick of saying this so-called 4g is x5 faster (Which it is not as they are capping speeds to 12Mbps anyways)

    • Mobile Network Comparison 30 October 2012 at 12:05 Permalink

      You’re right – that’s a bit of an exaggeration. But our experience trying to use 3G to stream video in big cities is appalling. We usually give up so it’s harder to use massive amounts of data. Didn’t know about this 12 Mbps cap – got a citation for that?

      • DanielM 30 October 2012 at 12:14 Permalink

        I did this test earlier and i live right near liverpool city centre (about 2 hrs ago) hardly much faster than there speeds, and according to there own data the average is 8-12Mbps which is not 4g speeds.


        • Mobile Network Comparison 30 October 2012 at 12:18 Permalink

          Hmmm, it’s obviously not up to full speed yet and the backbone bandwidth clearly has to be split between users of each cell site but the fact you can get 20 Mbps shows there’s not a hard 12 Mbps cap. It does seem crazy that they’d institute a hard cap per user but then the whole pricing seems pretty crazy to begin with. Can you run speedtest with a server closer to you rather than London?

          What’s your opinion of having 4G? Do you think it’s worth it? How much data do you think you’ll use a month?

          • DanielM 30 October 2012 at 12:21 Permalink

            AM on 3g tho. not the 4g service…

            Sorry i wasnt clear..

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