Everything Everywhere, a JV between Orange and T Mobile, rebranded EE, has formally announced that it will launch the UK's first commercial LTE network on Tuesday 30th October, 2012. This is a coup for EE as they are roughly 6 months ahead of all their major UK rivals, including Vodafone, O2 and Three. With the EE launch the UK has instantly become one of the most dynamic 4G markets in Western Europe. However, our Country Share Tracker (CST) service notes that the UK remains a long way behind in an international context. The UK is roughly 2 years behind the US, and at least 1 year behind South Korea, Japan and Canada.
4GEE will be launching initially with 5 brands, 7 LTE phones, 1 dongle, and 1 pocket WiFi device. Apple, Samsung, HTC, Nokia and Huawei will all have products on offer. Subsidies from EE will be high. There will be plenty of subsidized devices available to try to tempt businesses and rich consumers away from Vodafone, O2 and Three. For example, EE thinks some early tech adopters at rival carriers will be willing to tether their existing 3G phones to Huawei's new E589 4G pocket WiFi device.
We estimate EE's data-plan pricing for 4G connectivity is on average around 10% higher than an equivalent 3G plan. We briefly trialed the 4GEE network in Central London yesterday and found it to be fast but a little patchy, while latency on YouTube videos was barely different from an HSPA connection. The 10% pricing premium is justified, but only just.
How big is the UK LTE phone market? It will soon be the biggest in Western Europe. We forecast UK 4G phone sales to surge +900% in 2013. More LTE forecasts and analysis, for the UK and 87 other countries worldwide, can be viewed by clients of our Wireless Device Strategies (WDS) service here.