4G itself might be lightning fast but consumer take-up of the new technology has been anything but. There are myriad reasons for that and overcoming them will be key to 4G success over the coming year.
The single biggest barrier to entry with 4G seems to be cost. According to a recent YouGov survey 55% of UK consumers believe 4G is too expensive. That’s a huge percentage and shows that for 4G to make any real inroads towards becoming the standard in mobile data it needs to be cheaper. Any network that offers affordable 4G tariffs over the next year is likely to enjoy a large number of subscribers. However right now only Three seem particularly interested in pursuing that tactic, as EE, O2 and Vodafone all have prohibitively high 4G contract prices, starting at around £26 a month for a low amount of data.
Awareness is another issue, as while many people are aware of the existence of 4G far fewer really understand what it is or the benefits of it. Advertising is the obvious solution to that particular problem and EE are already doing a good job of that. O2 and Vodafone are also gearing up advertising campaigns in light of their impending 4G launches, so by this time next year if the advertising continues it’s likely that awareness will no-longer be a problem.
Coverage is an obvious problem the networks face too. After all no-one is going to pay for 4G if it’s not available in their area and many potential customers may be put off by the patchy coverage even if they can get it at home, as when travelling lack of coverage will still be an issue. EE has an advantage here as they’ve had almost a year to extend their coverage, though they’ve still got a long way to go before 4G is available for everyone. Coverage is likely to be a much bigger problem for O2, Vodafone and Three, all of whom will be playing catch-up next year. The faster they are at widening their coverage the better.
Data limits are another potential issue, as to make the most of 4G a high limit, or indeed no limit, is vital, yet with the exception of Three no UK network has any plans to offer unlimited 4G and the prices for high limits are extortionate in any case. So alongside lowering prices upping or removing data limits is bound to go down well with consumers.
Whether many of these things will be done remains to be seen. EE have the advantage in terms of coverage and will likely continue to throughout the next year. Three have the advantage in terms of prices and data limits, though they’ll also have to make consumers aware of their prices and being the smallest of the four networks it’s unlikely they’ll spend as much on marketing as EE, Vodafone or O2. Any network that can focus on all of these areas is likely to have the most subscribers, though to achieve that would undoubtedly be expensive and may not be worth it for them.