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EE says LTE users are spurning wifi

Service revenues were down 3.3 per cent despite strong growth in LTE user numbers

UK LTE pioneer EE has revealed that use of public and private wifi connections is dropping among its LTE subscription base. The high performance of the firm’s LTE network is resulting in customers “increasingly using it as a replacement for home broadband and wifi,” the firm said.

In a survey of its LTE customer base, EE found that 43 per cent were using “fewer or no public wifi hotspots” since moving to the technology. Meanwhile 23 per cent said they were using their home broadband less since the switch to LTE.

The same proportion – 23 per cent – said they were using the LTE network for more than three hours a day.

Offload to wifi has been a crucial tool for mobile operators in managing the growth in demand for data over 3G networks. In the early stages of LTE availability, relatively low customer numbers are likely to keep the quality of experience high. Nonetheless, offload is expected to remain important as migration to the new technology accelerates and feeds greater demand.

But an EE spokesman told Telecoms.com that the firm’s generous spectrum holdings at 1800MHz and 2.6GHz mean that, in the medium term, it will not depend on wifi offload to sustain the quality of experience that is now becoming familiar to subscribers. Existing holdings will allow it to “maintain that quality of experience for a rapidly growing number of customers,” he said.

“We really don’t have to worry about getting customers off the network. We don’t have the same issues that some other operators have,” the spokesman added, suggesting that EE’s competitors might find their comparatively limited LTE spectrum allocations exhausted more rapidly as uptake grows.

A high quality cellular network experience is more attractive to subscribers than public wifi, which is still hampered by authentication issues and patchy availability, he said.

Wifi will remain important, however, as users seek to protect their data allowance, he added.

EE charges £31 per month for a 24-month contract with a phone with a 1GB data limit. £41 per month will buy EE customers 2GB data while £46 will buy 10GB. EE offers up to 20GB data packages, which currently costs £51 per month.

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5 comments

  1. Matt 20/08/2013 @ 1:55 pm

    Sounds like they are lining up to get rid of their wifi business

  2. bovirig 22/08/2013 @ 10:52 am

    Too early to draw a final conclusion. May be the LTE offer for first users is very attractive and let them camp on the LTE network. Wait and see when the LTE load will increase.

  3. Claus Hetting 30/08/2013 @ 10:54 am

    Well – a similar effect has been identified in Asia in certain places. Personally, I think it is natural that a very good LTE service will pull usage over – but the problem of bandwidth and capacity does not go away with LTE. Once LTE networks are loaded, the user experience will also decline. I think that carrier Wi-Fi is still in a very strong position to overtake LTE as the preferred indoor capacity solution because there’s a lot of band and because it’s a lot cheaper. The game-changer here is seamlessness – which means that users can roam onto Wi-Fi networks without knowing that they’re doing it. This technology exists and will be used all over the world in the coming years. It’s a big business opportunity for everyone – if done in time and with the right strategy.

  4. GS 05/11/2013 @ 4:53 pm

    Very expensive… LTE prices in Lithuania: £2 with a 2GB data limit. Unlimited FTTB with 100mbps speed costs about £2 without contract.

  5. EE Customer service hater 05/02/2014 @ 11:27 am

    It seems like a natural progression to lose their wifi services, just depends on the LTE service like bovirig says.

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