EE announces 4G price plans

UK operator group Everything Everywhere’s LTE brand EE has announced the pricing plans for its service, which will go live October 30. The operator has chosen to base its tariffs around volume of data, rather than speed. The cheapest 4G tariff including the full price of a handset is £41 per month with a 1GB data limit on a 24-month contract.

An LTE capable device with a 500MB data limit will set customers back £36 per month, 3GB will cost £46 per month, 5GB is £51 and 8GB will be priced at £56 per month. Huawei’s Ascend P1 4G LTE handset is the only device available for free on a 4G contract, on 1GB price plans and higher. An iPhone 5 64GB device will cost as much as £379.99 on a 500MB contract.

SIM-only deals will begin at £21 per month for 500MB, and a 5GB plan will cost £36 per month. Each tariff includes unlimited voice and SMS.

The pricing positions the brand very much at the high-end of the customer spectrum in the UK, but the price difference between 3G and 4G services is not as high as those seen elsewhere according to Steven Hartley, principal strategy analyst at Ovum

“This suggests that aggressive targeting of its rivals’ most valuable customers awaits,” he said.”When considered against other unlimited minute and text plans on high-end devices, like the iPhone 5 or Samsung Galaxy SIII, plan, prices are similar. However, EE customers would also have to pay £49 for a 16GB device, whereas it would be free on other networks, such as O2. Nonetheless, compared to the high premiums charged for LTE at launch across Europe, this is refreshing, even if it will not appeal to everyone’s budget.

He added that the deals should prove popular in the UK, where network performance is generally poor compared to the rest of Western Europe.

“Combined with a limited price premium, EE’s rivals will no doubt be nervously awaiting its impact on high-spending, high margin customers. Nonetheless, the emphasis on the high-end means that we don’t expect seismic shifts in customer numbers in the short-term.”

Matthew Howett, regulation analyst at Ovum added that EE has a challenging role to play setting the standard for 4G pricing and advertising principles in the UK.

“From what we have seen, the simplicity of the pricing, particularly for those already familiar with Orange tariffs, and the decision to stay away from unlimited data plans are both pragmatic moves,” he said.

“Come next week, the rest of the industry is likely to make the most of highlighting what customers can do on their upgraded 3G networks, expressing the benefits in ways customers will easily be able to understand – for instance how long it will take to upload photos to Facebook, and download movies on the go? However customers on these networks will of course only see the same benefits as EE customers come the auction of spectrum planned for next year.”

EE said that all customers will be able to tether or use VoIP services as part of their plan with no need to buy specific data add-ons. Access to BT wifi wireless hotspots across the UK is also included in all plans at no extra cost. Data controls will alert customers when they are approaching the data allowance limit, and then when their limit is reached. They can then choose to buy a data add-on, or wait until the next bill period starts. For an extra £5 each month, customers will be able to take all of their minutes and texts with them as they roam Europe and selected countries around the world.

Mobile wifi dongles will also be available, ranging from £15.99 for 2GB on an 24 month plan to £35.99 for 5GB on an 18 month plan. EE is also offering to swap Apple iPhone 4S, Samsung Galaxy SIII or HTC 1X devices on Orange and T-Mobile to a 4G version of the same phone, and move to a 4G phone plan for £99.

Upfront costs per handset for all 24 month plans:

Handset 500MB 1GB 3GB 5GB 8GB
EE £36 EE £41 EE £46 EE  £51 EE  £56
HTC One XL 4G LTE Ready £149.99 £49.99 £29.99 £29.99 £29.99
Samsung Galaxy S3 4G LTE Ready £149.99 £49.99 £29.99 £29.99 £29.99
Huawei Ascend P1 4G LTE Ready £19.99 FREE FREE FREE FREE
Samsung Galaxy Note 2 4G LTE Ready £179.99 £139.99 £89.99 £39.99 £29.99
Handset 500MB 1GB 3GB 5GB 8GB
EE £36 EE £41 EE £46 EE  £51 EE  £56
iPhone 5 16GB £179.99 £109.99 £49.99 £29.99 £19.99
iPhone 5 32GB £269.99 £219.99 £149.99 £99.99 £29.99
iPhone 5 64GB £379.99 £269.99 £219.99 £189.99 £139.99
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