We've had a date, October 30th, for a while, but now we have prices to go with it. The bad news is there's no unlimited data, and if you want the sweet, blazing waves of 4G before the end of the month you'll have to pay at least £36-a-month for two years to get it.
Actually, £36 a month isn't all that bad, but it comes with a paltry 500MB of data, which is, frankly, pathetic when you can hit fibre-like speeds on the go. The price plans go up from there, and while all include unlimited voice calls and texts, the data allowance varies.
If you want something vaguely usable, £41-a-month buys you 1GB; £46 3GB; £51 5GB, and finally, £56 per month buys you 8GB of data. If you want to only sign your life away for 12 months, add £10 per month to each tariff and you've got your rather extortionate price. Mind you, you can use that data however you like -- tethering is go -- and if you run out, there's no chance of bill shock. EE will warn you when you're 80 per cent through, and when you hit 100 per cent, it'll stop your data and give you the option to buy data boosters. Said boosters start at £3 for 50MB and ramp up through £6 for 500MB, £15 for 2GB, and £20 for 4GB -- not a cheap prospect.
The good news, is that if you happen to already have a 4G-enabled phone, say you bought a SIM-free iPhone 5 at launch, there will be SIM-only contracts. Unfortunately they're not actually that much cheaper. For 12-month contracts you can take £15 off the prospective tariff (therefore starting at £21 for 500MB), or supposedly just £5-a-month off for 30-day rolling contracts, but that has yet to be confirmed. The bad news is you'll have to wait till November 9th to grab them, so you're out of luck if you're desperate to cruise on 4G immediately.
Existing Orange and T-mobile customers will be able to upgrade to a 4G contract for free if you have an 1800MHz-capable LTE phone. If not, and you bought an iPhone 4S, Samsung Galaxy S III, or HTC One X in the last six months, you can dump your current contract and switch to EE 4G for £99. Anyone outside that will get 33 per cent off their early termination fee, which is normally just the outstanding monthly charges, but they can quickly add up.
EE's also throwing in a couple of value-adds to try and sweeten the deal. You'll get free Wi-Fi courtesy of BT WiFi, plus EE's going the streaming-film route too. It's launching EE Film, which will compete with the likes of Now TV from Sky. EE will have 700 films available to stream, including about 200 new films that'll be day-and-date releases with DVD. Until February, EE4Gers will get one free film credit a week for their choice of flick, which can be watched on your phone or computer. The film can be streamed or downloaded to your device, and it won't even count towards your data allowance. EE's continuing where Orange Wedneadays left off too, with 2-4-1 cinema tickets, plus you can rent films for between 79p and £3.99 a shot. Unfortunately they're all just in SD -- no HD movies here I'm afraid -- but a free film once a week from an up to date library is better than a kick in the teeth.
EE's also throwing in a strange backup-come-insurance solution as well. Called 'Clone Phone', the bundled 'lite' version just gives you 500MB of backup storage via an EE app for contacts and media. I'm not sure 500MB will get you very far, and considering Apple, Google and Microsoft all offer integrated solutions that do a similar thing for free, I have no idea why you'd use this. Anyway, if it sounds like a good idea to you, there's a pay-for 16GB storage upgrade option available, which for £4-a-month also nets you phone tracking, should you lose your device. If you're into full-blown insurance, 'Clone Phone Fully Loaded' is available for between £6 and £14 a month, depending on your phone, which affords you a replacement handset within 24 hours, plus all of the above. Unfortunately that kind of service doesn't come cheap as there's an excess of £50 to pay, but there's no limit to the number of replacement phones you can have.
EE's 4G network is launching in 10 cities (Birmingham, Bristol, Cardiff, Edinburgh, Glasgow, Leeds, Liverpool, London, Manchester and Sheffield), and is ahead of schedule in Southampton, with parts of the city already covered. Five other cities, namely Belfast, Hull, Derby, Nottingham and Newcastle will be 4G-enabled before the year is out. After that, the next targets for EE's 4G expansion will be Cornwall, Cumbria and Northern Ireland, with everywhere else following at a later date. Within the cities that are already 4G enabled, they'll see coverage starting from the city's epicentre and spreading out into the suburbs as the year progresses, so that 20 million people are covered by Christmas.
EE's also doing the home broadband thing, with EE fibre, which will set you back £15 (plus line rental) for 38Mbit fibre, with various plans available, cranking the speed up to 76Mbit. If you bundle 4G and fibre together, EE will knock £5 a month off your combined bill. 4G plans for businesses will differ, while a 4G portable hotspot can be had starting at £16 a month for 2GB of data.
Whichever way you roll it, EE's 4G isn't going to come cheap, and it's a crying shame there's no unlimited data packages, especially considering the plans top out at an eye-watering £56-a-month. It could have been worse, though, as EE has a monopoly on 4G in the UK for the time being. While we don't know how much the other networks will charge come the middle of next year, I suspect competition will put a downward pressure on price.
Update: We now have handset pricing, and, well, there's nothing cheap about it.
Image credit: Mobile mast from Shutterstock