4G is becoming increasingly popular in the UK, where the advent of competition in the market has finally unleashed better deals for consumers. After EE launched its 4G network back in 2012, O2, Vodafone, Three and Tesco Mobile have all launched fourth-generation mobile services, with many other networks and virtual operators now planning their own 4G launches.
giffgaff signalled its intentions to launch 4G services back in October, promising a rollout beginning in early 2014. The carrier – which uses O2’s physical network, and is also owned by O2’s parent company Telefónica – has now announced its first 4G plans… but they may not be quite what you were expecting.
giffgaff has built up a considerable following among British handset users, thanks to its keenly priced plans, or ‘goodybags’, many of which include unlimited data bundles from just £12 a month, with no long-term contracts. But data-hungry users will find nothing for them in giffgaff’s new 4G plans, with a maximum of just 2GB a month on offer.
The entry-level 4G goodybag is priced at £10, and includes 500MB, 250 minutes of cross-network minutes and unlimited texts. For £12 a month, you can get the same deal but with 2GB of data instead. At £15 a month – the top 4G tier – you’ll get the same as the £12 goodybag, but with 500 minutes. If you go over the amount of data included in your goodybag, you’ll be charged the same as on 3G plans – £0.02 per megabyte.
All existing 3G goodybags will be unaffected, so if you’ve got one with unlimited data, you can carry on using it as normal. It seems that giffgaff has taken the position – after consulting extensively with its community of users, or "members" – that its customers want either fast speed or lots of data, but not both. In a blog post, the company referred to feedback from its users “who told us in the 4G member survey that they prioritise a high data allowance over speed of connection”, which led to the decision to leave the existing 3G goodybags untouched.
Customer feedback also explains why the carrier is launching such a limited range of low-cost plans for its 4G service. giffgaff says that one of the aims of its 4G launch is to “deliver a great value 4G offering at the price points which are important to our members – these were identified as £10-£15 in the 4G member survey.”
In a later forum post, giffgaff added that “every MB of data usage on the network costs money for giffgaff as a business, so data allowances need to be carefully thought through” to ensure they are viable for the business in the long term. giffgaff's CEO said in February 2012 that unlimited data plans are not sustainable. It is possible too that giffgaff's parent, O2, did not relish the prospect of giving its users unlimited 4G bandwidth at low cost, while it is still playing catch up to EE in building its nationwide 4G network.
So, for the time being at least, giffgaff customers can choose only between 4G speeds with fairly limited data, or surfing the web at 3G speeds but with no download limits. Those wanting unlimited 4G data will have to look elsewhere, to the likes of Three.
giffgaff will launch its 4G plans early next month, but existing customers can sign up for a 4G trial now, which will continue throughout the year. An exclusive £10 goodybag, which includes 1GB of 4G data, 500 minutes and unlimited texts, will also be available. Those who sign up to the trial will be invited to participate in surveys and give feedback that will help to shape giffgaff’s future 4G services.
Source: giffgaff | images via giffgaff