Technology Journalist and Copywriter

Kate O'Flaherty

TechBlog

Welcome to my blog, featuring industry musings and opinions on the latest products

By kateoflaherty, Aug 1 2013 09:10AM

Nearly a year after EE's launch of 4G in the UK, O2's move to offer the technology at the end of August is a welcome addition.


But O2 will need to raise the bar substantially if it is to lead in the LTE space. The operator's 4G announcement has been much more low-key than its rival EE, which launched 4G to 11 cities in October last year. In contrast, O2's network will go live in just three cities - Leeds, London and Bradford - indicating an urgency to get 4G out before EE steals even more of a march.


O2 will launch to 10 additional cities by the end of the year, with tariffs starting at £26 a month (slightly more expensive than EE's Sim-only £21 a month deal) but it hasn't yet revealed what customers get for this entry 4G package. O2 also hasn't indicated whether 'sharer' plans will be offered, allowing customers to share a 4G data plan in an office or between households and devices.


O2's Achilles' heal in both the business and consumer market will be a lack of iPhone on its 4G network. This will mean losing a huge proportion of the market in iPhone 5 customers, until the launch of the next Apple device later this year.


Yet O2 will fight its corner. Already a well-established player, O2's potential in the business market looks promising - and it's likely the operator will start pushing these credentials heavily. This is confirmed by O2's business director Ben Dowd, who is quoted as actively encouraging business users to sign up to 4G in today's statement.


As Vodafone waits in the wings to announce a 4G network as soon as next week, O2 has a long way to go before catching up with EE's 700,000 4G customers - and not having the current iPhone will hit it hard. But the operator has held the lead in the market once before; it will need to up its game - using deals, add-ons and clear messaging - if it is to do the same in the LTE space.




Read my TechRadar Pro article on choosing a 4G provider for your business.

By kateoflaherty, Jun 6 2013 11:36AM

Aggressive marketing is the pillar of EE's 4G strategy - and it's helped build a massive head start on its rivals.


It doesn't matter how you look at it; 4G's done well for EE. The firm announced today that it's added 500,000 customers since the launch of LTE seven months ago. You can quibble over the figures, but it's certainly not a bad start.


And with Vodafone's plans for a summer 4G launch already on hold until at least September, EE is taking further advantage of its lead. Last week, the operator launched affordable Sim-only 4G contracts priced at just £23.


Then today, EE announced shared 4G data plans, a revolution that's set to change the way mobile operators offer tariffs.The move was predicted by experts quoted in my recent article for Mobile Today.


According to EE, the shared tariffs will allow mobile customers to share their 4G data plans across phones and tablets, or with other people.


It's no surprise; shared data contracts are already the way things are done in the US. But it's a big change for the way consumers buy their data.


EE's also been targeting businesses hard, pushing 4G services through its direct channels and resellers, accompanied by advertising the benefits of 'always on' broadband.


The other mobile operators are getting left behind. As consumers start to take notice of 4G, their only option is EE and those with contacts coming up for renewal will be going to the only place they can.


Customer service isn't the biggest consideration anymore. Three is waiting until September for a low-key launch of 4G and Vodafone's LTE network is already delayed. Even O2 - if it does indeed launch this summer - will have a lot of catching up to do.


EE's been watching its competitors and biding its time; and the battle lines have been drawn. As CEO Olaf Swantee ominously said in the operator's latest statement: "We won’t stop here. Customers can be assured that, on EE, they are one step ahead.”


EE is, of course, one step ahead of its rivals too.




By kateoflaherty, Oct 4 2012 12:52PM

Tuesday night's decision to bring the 4G spectrum auction forward has been a long time coming and comes after multiple legal threats and years of operator squabbles.


The move means the auction will be held six months earlier than planned - allowing all networks to have 4G services by next summer. Although this gives EE - which was given the green light to roll out its 4G network last month - a significant head start, it has dulled Vodafone, O2 and Three's legal battle campaigns for the time being.


Ofcom's decisions over the last few years have never really encouraged the UK operators to work together. In fact, its actions during the period have led to fights between naturally competitive networks that should have worked together for the greater good.


Legal threats have been commonplace along the way, with operators worried that the others would have a competitive advantage if allowed to acquire or keep more useful spectrum.


This should not have been their concern. Long Term Evolution (LTE) or 4G as the media likes to call it, should have been rolled out by all operators before now. Many UK operator trials have taken place already, and the US has had the technology since 2010. Meanwhile, some areas in the UK are still struggling to get a 3G signal.


The regulator's decision to allow EE to roll out 4G early might have brought the technology to consumers sooner, but it didn't give them a choice of network if they want to use the service.


Everything Everywhere had previously campaigned to roll out its LTE services early, but was forbidden to do so by the regulator as it would then be given a competitive advantage. Now, of course, things have changed.


Ofcom chief executive Ed Richards, who said the regulator's latest actions "avoids the risk of significant delay", now says the latest move "is tremendous news for consumers who might otherwise have waited a considerable period for the next generation of mobile broadband services".


He added in yesterday's statement that “Ofcom's objective has always been to release the spectrum as early as possible and we remain focused on starting the auction by the end of the year".


Yes, Ofcom's decision has finally (nearly) aligned the operator landscape. However, if its decisions during the spectrum auction continue to mirror those of the last few years, the roll out of LTE could turn into a rather embarrassing disaster.


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