Olaf Swantee Says EE 4G Price Is Worth Paying

Steve McCaskill is editor of TechWeekEurope and ChannelBiz. He joined as a reporter in 2011 and covers all areas of IT, with a particular interest in telecommunications, mobile and networking, along with sports technology.

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CEO defends price plans and remains confident of keeping the premium

EE CEO Olaf Swantee has defended the network’s 4G pricing plans and said he remains confident it can sustain the premium even when other mobile operators launch their LTE services this spring.

Speaking at the Huawei Broadband Forum, he said that by convincing users of the benefits of superfast mobile broadband and by creating services around its offering, it can differentiate itself from the rest of the pack.

“Today is a very exciting day, I’m very, very pleased and also proud of my 15,000 employees to get this infrastructure into the UK,” he said. “I’m very confident that not only will we have caught up with some of the other countries,  but that we can start establishing the benchmark for 4G connectivity in the months and quarters ahead.”

Olaf Swantee preaches EE 4G

He claimed London was probably the “widest-covered capital already” and that he wanted to replicate that around the country. Yet he accepted not everyone would be convinced by the faster speeds and new applications possible with 4G.

“It is clear that we need do more work to create awareness about superfast broadband, whether it is 4G or fibre and to try and get out of the ‘techno-talk’ and really try to explain what you can do with it,” he explained. “But when people actually see what you can do with it, it opens their eyes, both from a consumer perspective as well as businesses.”

When the operator revealed its price plans last week, many reacted negatively to the high cost. The cheapest deal costs £36 a month for 500 MB of data. Swantee said that for such an increase in performance, it is necessary to pay a “10-20 percent” premium.

Different from the others

“In general, the challenge of marketing in mobile and in fixed is to demystify capacity and speed,” he said. “Our research is showing that people don’t understand how much capacity they need for reading email or for downloading a film or whatever.”

He called the initial reaction to the price plans and the feedback on social networks “quite interesting”, but insisted that the most intensive mobile data users only use between 1GB and 1.5GB a month. Swantee said mobile tariffs in the UK were too complicated and that EE wanted to make things simple.

When it was suggested that when all operators are able to launch 4G networks, one of them might be tempted to offer it for the same price as 3G, Swantee said that by offering services around mobile, EE could differentiate itself from its competitors and maintain the premium.

“Today is just the start of the plan,” he stated. “I can’t guarantee it, but we have plans that give me confidence that in the foreseeable future we can sustain some differentiation.”

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