Is it worth moving to 4G?

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Vodafone and O2

There's big news on the 4G front: Vodafone and O2 have launched new tariffs. Vodafone has coverage in one city, and O2 has coverage in three. It brings new competition to EE, which started early and now covers 100 areas. And we're hearing that Three intends to join the fray in December.

There's only one hitch - a huge number of us think it's a pointless waste of money.


The offerings

The providers are competing enthusiastically. EE was clearly early to the party and can compete effectively on coverage and on speed - claiming an average speed of 24 Mbps. Vodafone and O2 are hoping to win customers over with perks like Sky Sports or Spotify Premium - or streaming music with O2 Tracks.

In return, they'll be charging a bit more. Plans start at £26 a month for 1GB of mobile data with EE and O2 and 2GB with Vodafone (which is offering unlimited data for the first three months).

Unconvinced

The problem is that we're not convinced it's worth paying any more for. A survey by broadbandchoices.co.uk found that although 81% of people know what 4G is, only 8% have ever used it.

We know it's much faster - between five and ten times faster - but one in five people think it won't make any difference to them, and 34% say they don't need to go any faster.

We're worried about coverage - with 21% of people saying it isn't available in their area. And the money is a big issue too. A third think the new tariffs are too expensive. To add to our financial stress, 68% of uSwitch customers are convinced that 4G will mean they get through data far more quickly, and will use up their allowances long before the end of the month.

So it it worth it?

For some people it's pointless at the moment. If your area isn't covered by 4G then you're spending more for your phone in the hope that a better service becomes available at some point. EE says it will cover 98% of the country by the end of next year and O2 and Three say they'll cover 98% by 2015, but it might be worth waiting until your coverage materialises before investing.

If you have the coverage, the tech savvy think it's worth jumping on that bandwagon as soon as you can. Dominic Baliszewski, telecoms expert at broadbandchoices.co.uk says: "Just like the black and white televisions of yesteryear, 3G is doing a perfectly good job for millions of customers - but 4G is the technicolor revolution. Whether you 'need' it or not, 4G offers broadband speeds that are typically five times faster than 3G can support and in some cases ten times faster. The advantages are obvious as soon as you use it and experience first-hand how quickly you can access the content you want whilst on the go."

If you're unsure, O2 is offering a three month trial period if you sign up before the end of October - so if you don't think it's worth it, you can downgrade back to 3G.

And if you're still unconvinced, it may well be worth waiting for Three's offering in December.
Ernest Doku, telecoms expert at uSwitch.com, says: "The web-savvy provider will deliver 4G at no extra cost, in the hope that offering the service with no premium - as well as the freedom of unlimited data and no hassle in getting set up - will outweigh perks from the competition." It's offering a £15 a month SIM-only plan, which seems to provide a reasonable solution.

So what do you think? Are you convinced by 4G?