Firstly it has made good on its promise from back in April that it would ‘double’ average UK speeds, with an initial launch of 12 cities. This is no LTE Advanced chicanery – it has simply double the bandwidth it uses from 2 x 10MHz to 2 x 20MHz. Clearly EE has got plenty of spectrum, and it’s not afraid to flaunt it.
It’s also happy to shout it now being able to offer speeds up to 150Mbps, but that’s theoretical, and effectively nonsense. There is a genuine real-world speed boost on offer though, and in my tests on an iPhone 5, I now am consistently getting 30Mbps – pretty much double what I was seeing before.
This is of course a strategic move to keep it ahead of its rivals, who will soon be launching their own LTE services and are unlikely to have the bandwidth to match EE’s speeds.
What’s innovative though is the pricing. The double speed is free to all existing subscribers, but it says that from September it will be charging more for the faster service. If it goes through with this, it will be the first time that a mobile operator has offered speed-based tiered pricing in the UK. This is going to be in stark contrast to Hutchison’s 3 UK network, which has already said it will not be charging more for its LTE service, and has been trying to counter EE speed marketing with its own ‘Ultrafast’ labelling, thanks to its use of DC-HSPA delivering 20Mbps.
No surprise then that it also confirmed that it is trialling carrier aggregation and might use this from the end of 2013, which will help it boosts speeds further.
The other area of innovation from EE is the introduction of Shared plans, again a UK first. From 17 July, you’ll be able to add up to five devices to one bill, for an extra £12 per phone or £5 for a tablet. That should make it more attractive to get more than one LTE device for a household.
Thirdly it’s introducing LTE as a Pay-as-you-Go option – asking £15 for 2GB a month with every extra 500MB costing £3. O2 MVNO Giffgaff offers unlimited 3G data for £12 a month, so the price premium for speed is clear here.
The next new trick is dubbed ‘Cash on tap’ – with a mobile contactless payment scheme using the NFC built into its compatible handsets using Mastercard. This means of course that the iPhone 5 is off the menu, and mainstream outlets such as McDonalds and Boots are on board. Of course contactless is something of a misnomer as you actually have to tap to make it work, but we’ll let that go.
Finally, there’s a new router on offer for its fixed-line fibre (FTTC) customers, the main draw of which is support for 802.11c, the new fast Wi-Fi standard.
It’s a healthy batch of announcements and it’s good to see EE not resting on its laurels as it strives to reach one million customers by the end of the year, but of all its moves, I’ll be most curious to see if the UK market has the stomach for tiered speed pricing.