Yesterday, the UK’s first 4G operator, EE, announced their pricing. As they’re the first UK network to get iPhone 5 compatible 4G LTE spectrum (and one of only two that ever will) their pricing will be of interest to many people.
At first look, it really disappoints. I’ll ignore subsidised phone contracts for now since that always distorts the issue. Instead, I’ll look at their SIM Only pricing:
- 500MB – £21/mo
- 1GB – £26/mo
- 3GB – £31/mo
- 5GB – £36/mo
On the positive side, all of these deals come with “unlimited calls and texts”, but wait a minute… aren’t we buying 4G phones for their data capabilities?
The great thing about 4G is that it offers fast downloads – up to 50Mbps in the UK according to EE’s field tests. So how long would my £21/month contract last at that rate? One minute and 20 seconds!
Blow your lunch money on the top 5GB package and you can enjoy 13 minutes of top-rate streaming per month. Awesome!
If, as I suspect most people will, you go for a mid-tier package like 1GB a month then there’s a nasty surprise in store when you hit your cap. Unlike the unlimited fair use plans from T-Mobile (under the same parent company) which allow unlimited data on a £10/month contract, the new 4G contracts require you to buy data bolt-ons to keep the lights on – £12 to add an extra 1GB (enough to last another 3 minutes at 4GEE’s headline rate).
So, the upshot seems to be… it stinks. If you are not a heavy data user then stick with a sub-£15 unlimited 3G plan from Three, T-Mobile, etc. If you are a heavy data streamer then 4GEE is unaffordable anyway. There’s just no logic in a top-flight, data-oriented monthly contract that can be swallowed up in less than 15 minutes.
Footnote: In reality, most people will get more than 15 minutes out of their contract. Data will never hit EE’s headline rates and most people have very modest requirements from their data service (notably, modest requirements that don’t need 4G). But these new caps are just way too small. If I don’t have enough data to listen to the radio to and from work each day then something is seriously wrong.