The U.K.’s giffgaff network, a wholly owned subsidiary of the Telefónica group’s O2 brand – has been a breath of fresh air for many, offering low-cost SIM-only tariffs, including highly affordable unlimited data packages with no contracts. The experience for giffgaff’s customers hasn’t been entirely flawless – just a few weeks ago, the network experienced its third major service outage in under a month.
But most giffgaff customers are broadly happy with what they get, and will no doubt be pleased to hear that the company has now outlined its plans to roll out 4G LTE services from March 2014.
Next month, giffgaff will open a consultation with its user base on how customers can be best served in launching and deploying 4G services. The carrier places a high emphasis on its relationship with its customers – it also relies on its user community to provide support to each other, since the network itself offers almost none – even down to its tagline: “the mobile network run by you”.
In January, giffgaff will start putting together the actual price plans and offerings ahead of the launch of its 4G services in March. It remains to be seen whether the company will preserve its 'goodybags' with unlimited data allowances for its 4G plans. Last year, giffgaff's CEO said that uncapped data packages may not be sustainable in the longer-term.
The company has also announced that it will soon launch a new 4G handset store, potentially marking a significant change in its business model. giffgaff shared no further details on this, so it remains unclear if the store will be selling full-priced devices, or if they will be sold with a carrier subsidy, or if buyers will have the option to spread out the cost. The latter two possibilities would bring giffgaff's offering more in line with other mobile operators, and create considerable overlap with parent company O2.
While giffgaff talks about the upgrades being performed to its 4G network, the carrier doesn’t actually own its network at all; instead, it uses O2's physical network. The LTE rollout for giffgaff will therefore be determined by O2’s pace – and having only launched its 4G network at the very end of August, there is still much to be done before it can claim nationwide coverage.
Earlier this week, Tesco Mobile, which also uses O2’s network, announced its 4G plans, which will only add £2.50 per month to a user’s bill, with the facility to add or remove 4G from a plan, or adjust their data package, from month to month, and no requirement to sign up to a new contract. In December, Three will launch its LTE services in the UK, promising no extra charges for 4G over existing plans, along with unlimited data packages.
Source: giffgaff blog