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4G failing to entice UK smartphone owners

Luke Johnson


Samsung Galaxy S4
Samsung Galaxy S4

Less than a quarter of British smartphone owners plan to upgrade to 4G mobile service, a new Ofcom study has found.

Despite 4G being widely lauded as the next big breakthrough on the UK mobile scene, the latest study has found that although the majority of British smartphone owners are aware of 4G, just 22 per cent of people plan on updating to a new 4G plan.

According to Ofcom’s findings, despite a number of leading UK networks confirming they will roll out their 4G service before the year’s end, two thirds of smartphone owners have no plans on making the jump to a 4G contract during the next 12 months. Analysts have suggested that the level of confusing jargon surrounding 4G is putting people off.

"4G is new and doesn't mean much to consumers," Jessica Ekholm, Research Director and of technology analyst firm Gartner told the BBC. "Any technology is intangible - people ask: 'What does it mean to me?'"

She added: "At the moment it's acronym soup. It needs to go viral. It needs people's friends and family to say '4G is fantastic'."

While EE is currently the only 4G network provider operating in the UK, earlier this week O2 confirmed that its own 4G network would begin rolling out later this month.

"Awareness and adoption of 4G is growing at a significant rate already and this can only accelerate as other operators finally begin marketing the service too," an EE spokesperson said.

With the O2 4G network to hit London, Leeds and Bradford on August 29 – with 10 further cities to follow this year – Ronan Dunne, CEO of O2 stated: “It’s great that I am able to announce O2 4G the day after the spectrum has been cleared for use.”

He added: “Digital connectivity will be made ubiquitous by 4G and become the oxygen of modern life. It is our intention to use 4G to inspire the nation through the possibilities of technology, encouraging people to live more, do more and be more.”

Ben Dowd, O2’s Business Director went on to state: “I believe that 4G is not only going to transform that way business work, but also how services are delivered to customers.

“Start-ups and small businesses should also be considering the benefits 4G offers in terms of agility and being able to engage with their customers in new ways.”

Do you plan on updating to a 4G phone service in the next 12 months? Let us know via the TrustedReviews Twitter and Facebook feeds or through the comment boxes below.

Andy Race

August 4, 2013, 10:06 pm

I upgraded to EE 4G and I really regret doing it. It has extended my contract by 5 months, put my bill up to £41 a month and I now only get 1GB of data when I used to get unlimited for £5 a month less. What was I thinking? EE's miserable data limits basically mean that 4G is useless because the whole point of it is surely so you can stream music & video, but this chews up data so you can't do it anyway. Its a bit like having a Porsche but having a restiction on it that you can only drive it to the shop and back once a week. Come on EE, stop being greedy, get your act together and increase the tight fisted limits.


August 5, 2013, 6:43 am

Too expensive, IMHO.


August 5, 2013, 7:03 am

Exactly. With only one provider, pricing hasn't exactly been cut-throat. Also, 3G is fine when you can get reception - does 4G have better coverage? If I could get 3G speeds everywhere (e.g. on the train) it would be a big improvement.


August 5, 2013, 8:12 am

The biggest problem from my perspective (as a relatively high data user) is the caps; more specifically the justification for the caps. Certainly it used be a method for the telcos to reduce high demand that was saturating the bandwidth of the 3G cell towers. Add in caps and high users either start to watch their usage and congestion goes down, or they pay more for it to compensate.

Now, with 4G, there is no bandwidth limitation and generally speaking people will not see congestion slowing them down (when connected to 4G of course) so the justification for the caps no longer applies.

So, have/will the telcos remove the data caps? Of course not! In the case of EE they made it even more expensive than 3G like-for-like (£30 for 500MB?!?!!). The only network that are attractive from the perspective of a data user (or as I prefer to think: "someone who actually uses their smartphone to its full potential") is 3 but they still have a big of a signal problem in many areas


August 5, 2013, 8:14 am

One more thing, I live smack in the middle of so-called "Silicon Fen" - the centre of technological innovation in the UK - and we don't have 4G signal at all here. Not even EE. O2's canned statement of “Start-ups and small businesses should also be considering the benefits 4G offers" is particularly galling in this respect!

David Horn

August 5, 2013, 9:32 am

Low take-up? Do you think it could have anything to do with the outrageous contract prices, misery data caps, high off-plan prices, crap roaming deals and 24 month terms? I adore my FlexT tariff with T-Mobile, but there's no way to keep this and get 4G, since it would mean more than doubling the price for fewer minutes and a much smaller data allowance.

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