/ Technology

Is 500MB enough mobile data for 4G?

When new technology comes out, you know you’re going to end up paying over-the-odds. And now 4G (the new faster mobile internet) has finally arrived in the UK, it’s no exception.

EE (Everything Everywhere) is making a big claim that you can now get ‘superfast’ downloads from just £36 a month.

What EE doesn’t add is that if you download data at its new peak 4G speeds, you’ll get through your 500MB monthly allowance in just 3 minutes and 20 seconds.

The cost of EE’s 4G packages

Now I’m as happy as anyone that 4G has finally arrived in the UK, I’ve been complaining about the delays for years. I also know that it was always going to cost a lot more than 3G services, thanks to EE having to upgrade its network. But should EE really be trumpeting its £36 a month figure when you could use the monthly allowance in less time than it takes the current world record holder (Hicham El Guerrouj) to run a mile?

OK, that’s at peak speeds you probably won’t get in practice, but even if you work it out at EE’s lowest estimate of the speeds you can expect (8Mb/s) it will still only take 8 minutes and 20 seconds. It’s like buying petrol through a monthly contract and then only getting enough fuel for you to get to work on Monday morning – even if you do get there at supersonic speed.

EE removes ‘bill shock’ danger

I’m impressed that EE has made efforts to remove the danger of bill shock by redirecting users to buy a new data bundle, rather than letting them run up a big bill. However, with data add-ons costing £3 for 50MB (50 seconds use at 8Mb/s), it could end up being a very frustrating and expensive way of using your phone.

4G was always going to be expensive, especially with EE currently working without a 4G competitor, but it should be offered in a realistic package – even if it takes away EE’s poster price. Are you scared away by EE’s 4G pricing?



Orange say that to get 4G, you’ll have to switch to a new EE contract with an EE SIM card. However, with an Orange nano-SIM in my iPhone 5, the usual “Enable 3G” option appears as “Enable LTE”. With other networks’ nano-SIMs, it appears as “Enable 3G” as usual. This suggests that Orange will sooner or later launch 4G (LTE) on their own SIM cards and tariffs without requiring an EE SIM card and contract. I’m going to hold back, as I’m already getting around 7Mbps downstream on Orange 3G and I don’t want to lose various Orange benefits such as unlimited Orange-to-Orange calls.


The depressing thing is I expect other networks, once they have their networks running next year, to do exactly the same thing. Mobile companies only seem interested in competing on ‘incentives’ like deals and free tickets and so on.


I don’t understand EE’s pricing. I’m on a business tariff, and I currently pay £7.50+VAT per month for 800MB, 325 minutes, 150 texts and unlimited calls to other Orange numbers. For a 4G consumer tariff with 1GB of data, EE are charging £26/month, but the equivalent business tariff is £35+VAT per month, i.e. 62% more than the consumer tariff. I’ll definitely be staying away from EE; their charges are outrageous.

attwe_k says:
26 October 2012

£41 for normal users for 1Gb on their website, don’t know where £26 is quoted


The £26 charge is quoted for 1GB. The £41 charge is if you want EE to supply your phone as well as the service. Since we are talking here about the charge for the service, it is more appropriate to focus on the price of the service alone without a bundling a phone as well.

Nomtha says:
23 October 2012

Interesting to see whether EE differentiates between browsing and downloading. When signing up for my iPhone 5 tariff, the explanation was that I would retain my unlimited browsing option but would be able to download up to 750MB (included in my tariff). I’m a fairly heavy data user although I tend to do most of my upgrades or major downloads at home – I’ve found it difficult to get through more than 16% of that allowance in 3 weeks.
It would be interesting to see whether that changes with a 4G service – the temptation may be to download more but I think it’s more interesting to look at what services or apps might rack up the data (e.g. how long could one listen to a radio show on iPlayer or stream TV)?

Richard says:
24 October 2012

I was waiting to use a 4g phone and connection, and I was expecting a premium but I was also expecting an overhaul of the data allowances. I have no problem with spending £35-£45 per month for 4g. but the only reason I would want 4g is to game over it using my vita and the view high def video content online. Which immediately make me more worried about gb than mb.the fact they even have a 500mb package at 4g speeds I find almost laughable. I will ring them when this is released and try and see if they see any sense, otherwise my next contract is going to be with 3, with all you can eat data. Then wait 2 years and get 4g when it is stable and hopefully less ludicrously priced. As an indication I use ~1.5gb and that is just browsing the internet and watching the odd low quality youtube video. At 4g speeds 3gb should be the entry point! and at £66per month I would expect unlimited!


£35-£45 per month is around three times the normal price for a monthly contract with 500-1000MB of data and a few hundred minutes and texts. Why are you willing to pay so much more for 4G?


And to visualise Tim’s nice stat:

Is 500MB enough data for 4G? It could take just 3mins to use your £36 a month #4GEE allowance as shown in our pic #EE4G twitter.com/WhichConvo/sta…

— Which? Conversation (@WhichConvo)