No doubt you've seen the TV ads for EE's new 4GEE service, and possibly witnessed your local orange or T-Mobile shop rebrand to EE at the end of October. The company is the only mobile operator in the UK with a 4G network at the moment (and competitors don't appear to be close to rolling theirs out), so has a monopoly on super-fast mobile broadband.
As we've seen first-hand, speeds can be truly impressive, matching or beating your home broadband connection for both upload as well as download speeds. In the real world it's unlikely you'll see the 40Mbps speeds we were able to enjoy before 4G made 4G available to the public, but there's a good chance of being able to access a connection that's between five and 10 times faster than your current 3G connection. That's assuming you live or work in one of the 16 cities where 4G is available, of course, and preferably in the centre.
However, we were surprised by EE's 4GEE tariffs. The pricing was always going to be high, but we didn't expect to see such meagre data allowances. It's absurd that a 500MB plan even exists. With a 4G connection was running at 10Mbps (a speed you'll typically achieve), you'd burn through that data in less than seven minutes.
Yet, EE suggests you wind down on your commute home by streaming a film. Given the faster connection, you'd probably want to stream it in HD. That's 3.2Mbps if you're streaming from BBC iPlayer, so a typical two-hour film would use just under 3GB of data.
Oddly, EE offers only 8GB of data per month on the top 4GEE tariff, which costs an eye-watering £56 per month (or £66 if you want a 12- rather than 24-month contract), and there's no unlimited data option.
EE hasn't really explained the decision, and is putting out mixed messages about how it expects people to use 4G. On one hand it likened 4G to a high-speed train, claiming that you'll cover the same distance per journey (or use the same amount of data per activity), but in less time. On the other, it says you can play games, watch TV and stream HD movies on the go.
The point of having fast mobile broadband is to enable on the move the sort of activities you would previously have enjoyed only over Wi-Fi. Until the data limits are brought into line with home broadband packages, streaming The Apprentice in HD will remain an unaffordable luxury.