/ 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) October 23, 2012

comnut says:
25 October 2012

Hey if you are ONLY getting that much, you have not been ‘haggling’ enough!!!!!

My mate just upgraded his (UK) T-mobile GalaxS1 to GalaxS3, and managed to get ‘the full monty’ with unlimited internet, unlimited txts, and 2000(yes, that is three zeroes!) minutes any network!!! :O :O :O

Dazzler says:
25 October 2012

If EE persist with these prices, I can see them featuring on a ‘company gaffe’ type programme in the future. Like one I’ve seen before which featured the likes of Ratner’s jewellery gaffe and Hoover’s free flights fiasco. Surely they’re going to see sign-up numbers far below their internal forecasts if any of the feedback comments on the web are anything to go by.

Now imagine if EE announced tomorrow that they’d made a mistake and after listening to prospective customers, they have decided to increase the data allowances in line with reality and not some guff about the average user blah blah blah. That would go down in history as a smart move surely.

I have a Full Monty unlimited data deal with T-mobile and whilst the signal strength is generally lower, especially indoors, than my previous provider (Voda), I get great satisfaction of using my new iPhone 5 without any worries of how much data I’ve used. It’s liberating but on the same token, I don’t surf and surf for the sake of it. If I could get the same deal on EE for a fiver more, I’d probably sign up on launch day even though I have no idea when my area will even get 4G…

attwe_k says:
26 October 2012

EE is a 4G provider, Orange is 3G provider. Its like comparing a mini to a Rolls Royce. Its unlikely EE, who own Orange brand, will upgrade it in the near future.

comnut says:
28 October 2012

erm, by November, T-mobile & Orange will be EE … Upgrade??? you are a bit late, it is already here.. My UK orange phone became EE two weeks ago… 🙂

I guess the ‘shop-front’ will change eventually, if enough keep moaning ‘ why does my phone say EE when it should say orange????’ LOL

AFAIK there are two types of 4G in UK – 4g local (using the spare capacity from merging with tmobile) and 4G LTE – the ‘full’ one.. this may well change, due to *reality* replacing confusion, myth, techs with big egos, etc, etc… not helped by even orange & tmobile giving the wrong/ confusing messages!!!

Peter says:
26 October 2012

Dangerous to say the least

When will the competion come into play and bring down the price

MrEE says:
27 October 2012

I work for EE but this is my personal view : I know that senior management (board level) are evaluating the feedback being posted all over the internet and will react to it appropriately. We are breaking new ground here, give us one month of live service and then see how things have evolved. There is a genuine desire to provide the best services and the best network but at the same time we do have to make a profit to stay in business.

I want 4G on my existing Orange tariff. I pay £7.50+VAT for 325 minutes, 150 texts, 800MB of data and unlimited calls to Orange numbers. I do not want:
– Unlimited calls to all landlines and mobiles
– Unlimited texts (given that most people I send texts to are on iMessage)
– To move from the Orange brand to the EE brand so that my family (all Orange customers) can no longer call me for free as another Orange customer.
– To pay anything more than a reasonable additional charge for the increase in speed above the 7Mbps that I currently enjoy on 3G.

comnut says:
28 October 2012

nfh: well maybe you should change your tariff , then??? or post in the orange forum, where they may notice it!!!

Comnut, I’m not following what you suggest – “well maybe you should change your tariff“. As I’ve said, I’m happy with my tariff; I just want the increased data speed without having to change non-data aspects of my tariff.

comnut says:
28 October 2012

Sorry, but I know phone companies only think of their tariffs… 🙁 if you try to get more complex details, they just look at you as if you want the impossible… they have not had the training for anything else!! :O or worse, think you are talking about other services…

Unless you are lucky to find someone with a brain, I can only recommend going to Carphone Warehouse, they have ‘geek squad’ for the more intelligent 🙂
Or just walk in to a Carphone Warehouse shop, and ask them!

I wonder if the new 4G phone contracts will be fixed price contracts or if the payments may rise during the contract period. It’s worth checking before buying your shiny new toy.

allan sheldrake (EE) says:
5 November 2012

i work for EE and there will be no price changes in your contract for the duration of 24 months you pay for ( then again i do think our prices are over priced since the launch of EE 51 pounds a month for a 8gb internet allowance i think your better off sticking to 3g plans ad they to offer a better service and there internet is umlim price plans

Thanks Allan. I do think customers need to see a commitment not to raise prices in their contracts.

Craig says:
5 November 2012

Want the new Nokia Lumia 920, but at those prices im not upgrading

Shame as MS have put alot into this new mobile OS and Nokia have also put alot into its new handsets but both have been let down by the pricing strategy of EE


Our Tech team has been trying out EE’s 4G to see how fast it is in London and Manchester. Check out their video:


Mikhail says:
8 November 2012

What I think about 4G? ….Ofcom sucks))) and there is no 4G in Brighton.

Mikhail says:
8 November 2012

I really hate how ofcom has dealt with 4G licensing, it is the end of 2012 and still how many cities in the UK have 4G? Do we really need an independent regulator that do more damage than good!?

Daniel says:
23 February 2013

Firstly it’s not 4g, 4g is LTE-ADVANCED, Lte (on EE) is infact a 3g technology

and no 500MB is nothing.

500MB is nothing. Most smartphones are capable of constantly updating Facebook and twitter feeds constantly and this amount of data can be used without watching any videos at all.

With huge 5″ screens appearing on our phones now people will be more inclined to watch catch up TV and watch movies etc.

I once used 42GB in one month watching a US Drama series, using my current Unlimited tariff. Lord knows how much that would have cost on EE. EEK!

John says:
22 March 2013

There is a big misunderstanding here about 4G in the UK! Who on earth has made this mountain from a molehill saying that 4G speeds are going to eat up all your data in a few minutes? Is anyone on these forums actually computer or internet savvy? When you download anything via 3G or 4G, we are talking megaBITS per second, NOT megaBYTES! if you have a monthly data cap of 500 megabytes (size) per month then your 4G is not going to eat it up any faster. you still have a total of 500 megabytes (size) to consume. The difference is that over 4G you wont have to wait for pages to load because the data transfer speeds are quicker. up to 50 megabits per second instead of the 3G 7 or 12 megaBITS per second.

Come on guys! get learning about internet speeds and downloads before making the whole country wobble with fear because we are being told silly stories by amateur reviewers!

Daniel says:
13 April 2013

Yeh they know, and you who doesnt.

Average they claim of 8-12Mbps

Could use 500MB in Minutes.

What are people’s real world experience with this service?

I regularly do speed tests on my BT infinity landline and get measured speeds of around 70Mb/s, so one would think that things like email would just happen so quickly you simply could not see it happening, or that I could watch live HD TV on my 24″ monitor without buffering, but the reality is I monitor my down load speeds continuously and rarely see more than 10Mb/s and that is with a fixed landline.

My guess would be that the sorts of speeds over a mobile network that EE are promising is just so much hot air just as fixed line companies have advertised speeds of “up to X Mb/s” and we all know that it has been a con for the last 10 years or more. Now I’m sure that in certain parts of big cities at certain times of the day these speeds will be there, but for everyday use, no chance.

Once everybody swops to 4G all the other issues of contention ratios, bandwidth, not to mention the speed of the servers at the sites you are visiting will slow the whole thing down dramatically. Remember that promise that came with 3G “you will never hear all lines are busy”? happens to me more often than I would expect.

I struggle with 3g a lot of the time outside of towns and cities, if 4G uses higher transmission frequencies then that will only exacerbate that problem as the higher the frequency the less able it is to penetrate buildings etc so it will become even more “line of sight” than it is now.

For 4G to be truly ubiquitous it will need an absolutely massive investment in infrastructure, even 3G coverage is not that good, so please let’s have a little more honesty with the 4G than we’ve had with either 3G or fixed lines! Only when the coverage is more or less universal will data limits become really relevant, at the moment I have 2Gb on Orange and although I would like to use it all, most of the time it’s so slow I just give up and find some other way to get the information I want

Daniel says:
13 April 2013

They can deliver but it’s the backhaul with problems atm. most of there masts are using something called Microwave (Basically the mast transmitting LTE has no fibre optic or good internet so it gets the conectivity from another mast with high capacity (Like Mast to mast WIFI basically) but it’s done with a huge dish (you will see this on the tower, it’s usually a huge white dish.