Cutting Room: Public still unclear on all 4G benefits


While EE should be applauded for claiming speed is all important within 4G, Michael Garwood argues not enough has been done to emphasise this advantage

EE CEO Olaf Swantee’s comments this month that the operator’s 4G network will always be the fastest with the greatest capacity clearly irked its rivals.

And you can understand why. After all, EE has had, and continues to have, a precious head start with the next-generation technology – leaving its rivals to monitor its movements as they prepare their own strategies for attack.

So it wasn’t surprising that O2 and Three responded by dismissing Swantee’s comments, stating 4G is not all about speed.

This prompted much discussion in the office.

While O2 and Three undoubtedly have a point – and indeed the technical jargon to back it up – it doesn’t hide the fact that, today, to the average man or woman in the street, 4G means exactly what Swantee is boasting about – speed.

Of course, there is a long list of other factors to consider. Reliability, coverage both indoors and out, and what exactly 4G can offer in terms of services to name but a few. So far, the answer to most of this is unknown. 4G in the UK is still in its infancy and, in truth, we are yet to see any groundbreaking services which are exclusive to the new technology.

But still, nearly 230,000 people have latched on, becoming early adopters and paying a premium to use it – which tells you plenty.

According to a recent blog from Microsoft, Americans typically spend around 24 hours a year waiting for web pages to load. That’s on a computer. Unfortunately, such stats aren’t readily available for mobile, but I suspect the figure is a lot higher.

And I’d doubt there is anyone reading this who has not at some stage become frustrated by the time it takes to view a web page on their device, or the time it takes to download a movie, song or work document – even with full signal.

For those who spend their days refreshing pages, downloading files, tweeting and checking Facebook, the extra £5 a month is undoubtedly money well spent.

And that brings me to EE’s ambitious target of signing up one million customers by the end of this year.

It will be very interesting to see if this figure is actually reached, given other operators will join the club, but also just how much demand there actually is.

4GEE marketing
Marketing is so crucial, and it could be argued that EE has struggled with this in the past – anyone remember the £30 million ‘I am who I am because of…’ campaign?

Some in the channel have questioned EE’s strategy on 4GEE, claiming it hasn’t helped drive demand, particularly in the B2B space.

Hiring Hollywood actor Kevin Bacon has certainly caught people’s attention, and the whole ‘connected’ theme makes sense –to me at least. But do they really provide the same clear, hard-hitting information Swantee spoke so freely about? Not really, to my mind.

A more effective approach would surely be to put 3G and 4G on handsets side by side and compare how long it would take to upload, say, a film on 4GEE compared to on a rival network. That would surely emphasise the point better than seeing Bacon getting a spray tan and hearing him talk about his back catalogue of movies.

But what do we know?