In an exclusive interview, EE tells Mobile News it will stop connecting legacy brands Orange and T-Mobile directly from February 2 and indirect from March 2 to focus on 4G
Exclusive Interview – Mobile News
EE will stop connecting customers to T-Mobile and Orange from February as 4G connections reach record numbers.
4G airtime customers now account for almost a third (7.7 million) of the operator’s 26 million subscriber base since launching the network in October 2012.
EE’s direct channels will stop offering the legacy brands from February 2, with indirect following on March 2.
The operator said the UK’s “astonishing” appetite for 4G over the past couple of years has driven this change.
Speaking exclusively to Mobile News editor Michael Garwood, EE chief commercial officer Marc Allera revealed more than 92 per cent of all connections (new and upgrade) during December and January were on EE, with close to two million 4G adds between November and December alone.
“It has been something we have discussed for many months now, but we didn’t feel it would be right to push the button on the activity until we had a 90 per cent or more mix of customers opting for EE.
“Only one in ten of our customers are now connecting to T-Mobile and Orange and we are confident the transition to a single EE brand is now the right thing to do.”
All current T-Mobile and Orange customers (around 19 million) will remain on their current deals – but will not be able to upgrade when the contract expires. EE will stop issuing T-Mobile and Orange prepay SIM’s from today. SIM’s will be deactivated permanently if unsold after a year.
Allera said EE is actively offering exclusive discounted deal to T-Mobile and Orange customers to encourage them to switch over to its 4G network. In time, he expects the majority of those customers to move on to 4G.
“If you are desperate to stay on either Orange or T-Mobile you can. But our channel partners, our stores, our direct channels will only be selling EE.
“We have a large customer base and want to ensure they all stay with us. We do not expect to lose customers as a result. I’m sure we will get to a point when 26 million customers are on EE.”
The news follows comments by EE CEO in May last year, the Orange and T-Mobile brands would remain for “years to come”.
The move will mark the latest evolution in the JV between Orange and Deutsche Telekom – since forming Everything Everywhere in April 2010.
Allera admitted marketing of Orange and T-Mobile has been almost nonexistent for 12-18 months, and in March 2014 it removed online connections of the networks from its website.
Allera confirmed the removal of new T-Mobile and Orange connections will have no affect on staff numbers.
He insists head office teams are now “brand agnostic”, whilst the “majority” of call centre staff are trained in offering expertise on all three operator brands.
“This is the final journey in what has been an incredibly successful brand launch.
“Two years ago the Orange and T-Mobile brands in the UK were very important to us when EE was a new brand and had to establish itself. It’s very much achieved that goal .
“There’s been an unrelenting focus on 4G, selling the benefits and broadening our appeal. We are now synonymous with superfast speeds and innovation.”
4G speed is vital to customers
Allera also revealed that one in every two of its 4G customers are now selecting its double speed 4GEE Extra add-on, which it says proved the importance of speed to end users.
The 4G Extra plans, which launched in July 2013, provides speeds of up to 40Mbps for an additional fee (around £5 per month)
Marc Allera noted the success of the offering, following a number of contrary comments from Vodafone CEO Jeroen Hoencamp and O2 COO Derek McManus, insisting coverage and quality are key, with Hoencamp stating you don’t need anything beyond 20mbps.
However, Allera hit back: “Speed and quality for mobile internet is very important and that’s why we have been investing in it. We now cover more than 80 per cent of the UK and we have double speed 4G in over 50 per cent of the UK. Whilst others are out there saying vocally speed isn’t important, we are a big believer speed for a large number of customers who want to use the internet and experience it the way it should be experienced.
“We are seeing one in two customers are willing to pay a little bit more for a faster speed.
He concluded: “We are the fastest growing 4G operator in Europe, number one in the UK for speed, number one for having the biggest network, number one for innovation and we are number one for making lives easier with technology.”