EE has been criticised for having an 'unspectacular' start to its 4G proposition, with the operator making 201,000 net additions across 3G and 4G contracts in the quarter after it launched.
The operator made the disclosure in its full year results, which it released this morning. The figures are down 35.8% from the same quarter in 2011 and from the 250,000 net additions it made during the third quarter of 2012.
EE refused to disclose how many of those additions were onto its 4G network, which launched in October and now covers 43% of the population. However, it suggested the bulk of these additions were upgrades, rather than stealing customers from rival networks. Its results statement said: 'We are seeing solid early momentum migrating Orange and T-Mobile customers to higher value EE 4G price plans in areas where 4G coverage is available.' It added Orange and T-Mobile customers who have moved to 4G are spending roughly 10% extra on its normal ARPU.
It said more than 10% of its corporate customers are trialling or using 4G, including Gatwick Airport, Kier, Microsoft, Morrisons, Saatchi & Saatchi Fallon, Sony Music and TNT Post. One in four new small or medium enterprise customers are also signing up to its 4G service.
EE was criticised by some consumers for its tariff design when it launched in October. Some consumers said the entry level allocation of 500MB of data was too low and the price plans, which went as high as £61 per month for 20GB of data, were too expensive. However, the operator stole a march on rivals by launching some six months ahead of them, as it held the sufficient spectrum to launch the service.
Steven Hartley, principal analyst at Ovum, said: 'EE's latest results show that the company still faces huge challenges. However, it is what the results don't say that seems most telling. The lack of LTE customer numbers is unsurprising. The official line is so as not to impact the ongoing spectrum auction. However, experience suggests that phrases such as 'solid early 4G momentum cover all manner of sins. Or to put it another way: if customer uptake was far ahead of expectation, then we would all hear about it. We therefore have to conclude that uptake has not been spectacular. That doesn't make it a disaster, just not necessarily fully optimising its monopoly position.'
Hartley suggested the operator was being hamstrung by the price premium imposed on 4G, pointing out the regions with the heaviest 4G penetration were in the United States, Japan and South Korea, where customers are not charged extra for the service.
Author: Graeme Neill