Today sees the launch of 4G LTE in the UK, but amid all the understandable hype being generated by EE – the operator given first mover status – what does the rest of the industry think about its prospects and those of the next gen service more generally?
Ovum’s Matthew Howett said EE was always going to have “a difficult role to play” being first to market.
However, he said that rivals O2, Three, and Vodafone may be grateful for EE’s attempt to move away from all-you-can-eat data plans to monetise 4G LTE.
Dominic Sunnebo, global consumer insight director at Kantar Worldpanel ComTech, said he expected to see “a significant number” of early adopters on Orange and T-Mobile trading up to a 4G EE contract.
However, encouraging significant switching from competitors will remain a major challenge.
Added Sunnebo: “Consumers are increasingly savvy about new technology and there are likely to be a significant number of consumers who will wait until the likes of Vodafone and O2 bring out their offerings, in the hope that prices will be driven down.”
Vodafone has launched something of an advertising Blitzkrieg in the UK over the past few days, promising to knock 70 percent off customers’ remaining contract charges, giving them a 4G LTE device and getting them up and running in advance of their roll-out next year – all in exchange for an “eligible” device.
Consequently, Stuart Orr, communications industry MD at Accenture UK & Ireland, believes EE must ensure that the user experience it provides through network coverage, handset availability and pricing is “really compelling” if it is to capitalise on its head start.
He said: “Operators can’t afford to get service delivery wrong, as consumers will not tolerate paying for a 4G experience and only getting 3G speeds.”
Freddie Kavanagh, VP of applications solutions at Tektronix Communications, warned operators that they will be faced with “spiralling” customer care costs unless they can anticipate and resolve network issues before they impact the subscriber.
“To ensure that 4G LTE customers receive the level of performance they would anticipate, while making sure that existing subscribers are not neglected, operators must appreciate they will have to deliver a “cross-domain” customer experience and make sure that they’re delivering on SLAs at all touch points of the network,” he said.
For Ciena’s Mervyn Kelly, meanwhile, it is “critical” that operators ensure an effective mobile backhaul traffic management system is in place to eliminate bandwidth restrictions and reduce the potential for data bottlenecks.
Looking ahead, Tekelec CTO Doug Suriano said 4G LTE will become the platform on which mobile brands and OTT providers collaborate to monetise new TV, video and gaming services, which could lead to lucrative revenue-share agreements.
However, as the business case develops and such agreements come to fruition, Suriano said operators managing the growth in signalling traffic, which will grow three times faster than data traffic, will be “pivotal” to the success of 4G LTE.
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