O2 is placing music and gaming at the centre of its 4G offer but has not signalled the start of a price war with its launch plans.
On 29 August parts of London, as well and Leeds and Bradford, will be switched on to O2’s 4G network. An additional two million people will receive the service per month and by the end of the year another 10 cities will get 4G – Birmingham, Newcastle, Glasgow, Liverpool, Nottingham, Leicester, Coventry, Sheffield, Manchester and Edinburgh. CEO Ronan Dunne said: ‘The full potential of 4G is as yet unexplored, but what we can be sure of is that it will allow for a whole new world of opportunity that people are now ready for.’
Despite EE benefiting from a headstart of almost 10 months and Dunne promising ‘mass market 4G’, O2 has no immediate plans to deep discount. An entry level Sim-only tariff will cost £26 per month, with further announcements due in the coming weeks.
O2 is looking to music and gaming content, as well as consistency of coverage rather than the speeds of EE, as its main differentiator. It is offering 12 months free music content for customers who buy a 4G contract direct from it. It already offers its O2 Tracks app that streams the Top 40 singles and sponsors a range of concert venues.
It will also follow EE’s lead in providing larger data bundles, rather than offer unlimited internet. Dunne said more than half of its base now have tariffs featuring more than 1GB of data per month and he said plans were in place to meet consumers’ growing needs.
Twenty handsets will be available from launch and while O2 customers will not be able to go 4G on the iPhone 5, Dunne added he ‘would be frankly gobsmacked if their roadmap didn’t address that issue’, suggesting Apple’s forthcoming handset would work on newer 4G networks.
Doubts have been raised about O2’s long term capacity. While low frequency spectrum can punch further into buildings and requires fewer masts, it has less capacity than higher frequency spectrum. This raised suggestions O2 could pair with BT in a spectrum share deal or use some of its capacity. Speaking last week, Dunne poured cold water on this and said: ‘There haven’t been and there are no discussions on that.’
Author: Graeme Neill