U.K. 4G network EE announces pricing; no unlimited data plans

Summary:EE, the first U.K. 4G network, reveals its plans and pricing for its next-generation LTE network. But those looking for unlimited data will be out of luck.

EE, otherwise known as Everything Everywhere in a not-so-distant past, has announced its pricing structure for new U.K. customers of its super-fast 4G LTE network.

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Access to the next-generation network, dubbed 4GEE, will cost you more than the average cell contract -- as one might have expected. For consumers and small businesses alike, access to 4GEE in the initial 10 cities (with six more by the end of the year) will cost you significantly more for the benefit of speeds of about 30Mbps on the go.

By the end of 2014, EE says the U.K. will reach 98 percent coverage. Whether or not the prices will dip by then, we can only hope.

But end-users on the EE will likely be disappointed than in a day and age where "unlimited" no longer means "as much as you want," by following suit with the other major networks, EE will not break the mould and dish out an unlimited data option for any of its tariffs.

Here's what consumers will pay for the various plans.

Consumers (including VAT tax)
Monthly cost Length of plan Features included Unlimited calls, texts
£36 24 months 500MB data + Wi-Fi Yes
£41 24 months 1GB data + Wi-Fi Yes
£46 24 months 3GB data + Wi-Fi Yes
£51 24 months 5GB data + Wi-Fi Yes
£56 24 months 8GB data + Wi-Fi Yes

By comparison to our Australian cousins, EE customers will pay roughly the same amount across the board if not slightly more , thanks to additional British taxes.

One of the major criticisms clear to see is the lack of a 12-month contract, locking in users for two years on a network that may not offer 4GEE speeds in your area until the time your contract is up.

Plus, it almost goes without saying that one requires a 4G LTE capable phone to access the 4GEE network -- including the iPhone 5 -- which will add even more to the cost of wirelessly plugging into the network. Thankfully, EE already has a bevy of devices ready for use on the network.

But there's one key problem. Users on 4G LTE networks often use more data than traditional 3G customers. The pricing may match rivals down-under, but for customers who tether in absence of a strong landline or fixed broadband connection will be in for a shock. The only saving grace is that EE customers can connect to one of more than 3.5 million BT Wi-Fi hotspots around the country -- which users will likely have to in order to conserve their data bills.

For small businesses, the plans don't get any easier on the collective purse strings. 

Small businesses (excluding VAT tax)
£30 24 months

1GB data; VoIP and tethering (allowance only), Wi-Fi.

£35* 24 months 1GB data; VoIP and tethering (allowance only), Wi-Fi.
£40* 24 months 4GB data; VoIP and tethering (allowance only), Wi-Fi.
£45* 24 months 8GB data; VoIP and tethering (allowance only), Wi-Fi.
£50* 24 months 16GB data; VoIP and tethering (allowance only), Wi-Fi.

However, the plot thickens when we throw in small businesses on a shared data allowance. Even then, it's still not much data for the cost. (But what do you expect for a brand new, niche, and developing network?)

Small businesses (excluding VAT tax)
  Shared data
Monthly cost £20 £40 £80 £120 £160 £240 £320
Limit 4GB 8GB 16GB 24GB 32GB 48GB 64GB
Price plans £15 per user  or  £25 with 4GB personal allowance

The benefit, of course, is that because EE is the parent company of T-Mobile U.K. and Orange U.K., users can still access fast 3G networks, and the in-between DC-HSPA speeds for existing phones that can support it, such as the Samsung Galaxy S III. The '3.5G' speed is pegged to reach around 40 percent of the U.K. by the end of the year, bridging the gap between slower 3G and super-fast 4GEE. 

You might think: "with speeds in excess of five-times faster than traditional 3G service, who could say no?" EE may well be a novelty for now but it will surely not fit everyone's needs and desires.

4GEE still isn't available the majority of the population, you may need to buy a new phone, the contracts may be too long for customers who wish to enjoy their right to switch between providers, and the prices may be too high for consumers and small businesses alike.

The bottom line: don't jump into EE yet unless you fulfil the above criteria, business or consumer alike.

EE flips the switch on its 4GEE network on October 30, a week from today , and will be initially available in London, Birmingham, Bristol, Cardiff, Edinburgh, Glasgow, Leeds, Liverpool, Manchester, and Sheffield.

Topics: Telcos, 4G, Networking, Smartphones, Tablets, United Kingdom

About

Zack Whittaker writes for ZDNet, CNET, and CBS News. He is based in New York City.

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