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The start of the real 4G battle

Posted by Darren Willsher on 29th August 2013

Today sees the launch, in London at least, of 4G services from Vodafone and O2, finally catching up with EE, which launched what feels like an eternity ago.

This is the end of what’s been a fairly complicated and drawn out affair, with all sides complaining about the other and the last few months have seen some interesting manoeuvring as they try and tempt consumers across to the more expensive plans.

While the 4G service from EE has been impressive, the number of people switching over hasn’t quite hit the level it was hoping for. So after spending lord only knows how much on new infrastructure, Vodafone and O2 have been working on some clever bundles to get people to switch.

The good folks at Pocket Lint have put together a solid post looking at the different options and costs here, but what’s clear is that the offer of high-speed data isn’t enough to get people to pay the extra.

There’s a good reason for this. If you live in London then odds are you get a pretty decent 3G signal (and if you find a spot where you can’t then 4G is unlikely to be much better) and on top of this the networks have been working on partnerships with Wi-Fi hotspots in the last few years. For example, thanks to the work of Vodafone and Sky (who I use for broadband), it’s rare that in central London I’m far away from an available hotspot. So would I pay the extra for quicker data elsewhere? Probably not.

Of course this is all early days and targeting the first adopters who always want the quickest and the newest services. But what will really be interesting to watch is how these services are rolled out in rural areas. In many European countries for example, fixed line broadband services in the back-end of nowhere haven’t been a priority, instead high-speed internet is delivered through 4G. With rural broadband a topic never far from the news agenda, at what point will 4G start being seen as a more attractive option than expensive fibre?

Regardless of what happens, the next few months are going to be very interesting for those in the telco space as we see just how many customers switch over and how the networks’ PR and marketing machines try and convince them to part with the extra pennies.

photo credit: Dustin J McClure

Darren Willsher

Darren has been with Wildfire for six years and is one of the driving forces behind the agency’s telecoms and networking portfolio, with experience working on a range of international, multi-channel accounts including CSR, Picochip (now Mindspeed), Real Wireless, The Small Cell Forum, Samsung and Allied Telesis.