CEO Olaf Swantee says it will lead to uncertainty among customers over the value it can offer, reiterating that EE won’t be drawn into a price war
EE has accused Three of devaluing 4G by offering it to customers for no added cost.
Three was the final UK operator to launch 4G when it went live with its services on December 2, initially launching in London, Birmingham, Manchester and Reading. All customers with a compatible device will be able to access 4G by the end of Q1 provided they live in a 4G area.
It is aiming to have eight million customers on a 4G tariff by the end of March, with 50 cities covered before the end of the year and 98 per cent UK population coverage by the end of 2015.
However, Three became the only operator to announce that it would be providing 4G at no extra cost, meaning customers can use their existing 3G price plans to access the faster service.
Last week, O2 began contacting existing 3G customers with a compatible 4G handset to see if they would like to upgrade to their superfast service for free.
When EE became the first to launch 4G in October 2012, it said it would be at a premium of £5 compared to 4G, a stance it has maintained ever since.
EE CEO Olaf Swantee (pictured) said Three offering 4G for free will lead customers to be uncertain about the quality and value it provides. He reiterated EE would not be making the same move, claiming there is “more to competition than price.”
“Before you offer something for free, you need to have a network, and I haven’t seen Three’s network so far. I don’t know which cities and towns they currently have it in.
“Customers will ask a lot of questions when they realise something is free. When something is available for free, it often lacks the value that really should be there.
“We won’t be offering 4G for free. There is more to competition than price. Otherwise we would just be playing an endless game in reducing costs where the product becomes a commodity.”
The operator also expects to treble its 4G base to six million subscribers before the end of the year. It ended last year with two million customers, growing that base by almost 70 per cent with 816,000 new additions in Q4 alone.
EE CFO Neil Milsom added: “The population coverage is increasing all the time, so there are more and more areas where 4G is becoming available. The handset range is also continuously extending as we move down the range to lower entry points and awareness is growing with all networks talking about it. Putting those factors together drives towards big momentum.”