At a press briefing this morning, EE claimed that "4G like no other technology has moved from niche to mainstream," which is why the network has taken its best stab at lowering its rates, and ensuring even more people can access the super-fast data speeds, with new PAYG options, and a promise that rural dwellers will be able to access 4G before too long.
While plans on the rural roll-out won't be announced for a while yet, EE said that for now, if you live in a town of 30,000 people or more, you'll most likely have access to 4G by the end of the year, bumping them up from the current 117 towns and cities touched by the hand of blazin' fast speeds. If you happen to live in London, there's also good news for the big smoke, with EE promising to reveal plans for testing a 300Mbps network by the end of 2013.
Currently, South Korea's SK Telecom's LTE-Advanced network is the world's fastest with 150Mbps, but with EE's new 4GEE Extra offerings, unveiled today, the UK network will be rivalling them with the same speeds (as an FYI, that's a maximum of 150Mbps -- real-world usage is more likely to be 60Mbps). It's only for those who can afford it, though -- the pay-monthly deals start at £26.99 (on a 24 month contract), and offer unlimited UK calls and texts, plus inclusive roaming calls and texts in 30 countries, including the US and Australia.
Meanwhile, new 24 month pay-monthly pricing options have been revealed for those happy with "just" download speeds of up to 30Mbps, starting at £18.99 per month. As our real-world tests in July showed, it's not often you see those touted speeds however. Full pricing details on both these tariffs, and the 4GEE Extra ones, are in EE's handy graph below. What the graph doesn't show you is the comparison to the UK's other 4G-touting networks -- O2's cheapest pay-monthly plan starts at £32 (or £26 SIM-free), with Vodafone's at £34 (or the same £26 price if you already have a 4G handset).
On the PAYG front, the same 15 handsets available on the pay-monthly contracts are also available for PAYG customers, with the cheapest being an Alcatel One Touch Idol S for £129.99 (we'd plump a few quid more for the Nokia Lumia 625 at £149.99, though -- worth the extra dosh, we reckon). PAYG customers will receive 10GB of free data to use in 90 days, and in 2014, they'll be awarded 2,014 free minutes (see what they did there?) A 30 day bundle of data costs £3 for 100MB, £6 for 500MB, £10 for 1GB, £15 for 2GB, £20 for 4GB, and £30 for 10GB. As you can see from the image up top, it'll be dead easy purchasing extra data through the My EE app.
The 4G news doesn't stop with smartphones, though. EE also showed off a new converged bundle for home broadband and smartphone customers, with mobile data allowances increased to 10GB per month when the home broadband service is bought. If a customer spends over £47.99 a month, that data will be boosted to 20GB per month.
Is 4G worth it? Honestly, for the average user, I'm not sure. I've seen a huge increase in the amount of mobile internetting I've done since I signed up to EE's 4G network last December -- no longer do I think "I'll download / do that when I get home and onto Wi-Fi." In fact, I quite often find myself downloading Spotify playlists over 4G rather than Wi-Fi at home, if I'm feeling impatient -- it's that fast.
But would a casual mobile user notice the difference? Probably not. But with EE promising a 1MB Facebook photo upload would take just half a second on 4GEE Extra, and a 60-second video of 140MB size uploaded to YouTube in 27 seconds, I must admit I'm suddenly feeling the 7.61Mbps I just saw on my iPhone 5 from inside our London Marylebone office is a little on the paltry side. [4GEE]