Christmas is coming. The marketing campaigns are well underway. And you know what the buzz word is this year! 4G. It's here. At last. Sort of. Mostly. A bit. Depending on where you live. Etc etc.
The service that transfers data faster than the speed of light took longer to arrive than a parcel from Slovakia. But dig in, fill your boots, whack that data cap. It's time to play.
If you can be bothered, that is. Don't get me wrong. I'm all for evolution. Where'd we be without it? Actually, I know a few missing links so could answer that easily enough. But sometimes, the marketing machine just sucks you in so much, you kinda lose perspective. And that's definitely happening with 4G.
First of all, why did it take so damn long? The US has had it for years. The land of StarTacs got LTE before us. Now, that's embarrassing. We've been brandishing our HSDPA+ handsets around screaming: "Yes, but it's 3.5G - it's just as good".
And you know what, it probably is. I say this as someone who has had 4G for a year now. I just don't get the fuss.
EE gave it to us first. I had to sell my grandmother, the dog and a portion of my soul to be able to afford a 3GB per month deal. But for months, I was able to show off the service.
Although the cool factor was watered down a little in having to explain to people why the phone said LTE rather than '4G' (it's Long Term Evolution, people). Thanks for that, iPhone. Thanks for stealing my moment as I then launch an explanation and my cool juice seeps down the nearest grid.
I was transfixed. Streaming movies on the bus. Wow. Watching the world cup final in the IKEA carpark! Amazing. Only, it never actually turned out that way.
While I found EE's coverage to be quite good, the constant 3G/4G switch as you move around never makes it as seamless as Kevin Bacon makes out. That bus he is sitting on must just be driving round a telephone mast in a big circle.
And now the others are catching up - O2 and Vodafone have bagged their places at the party pre-Christmas. As of this week, Three has tentatively knocked at the door but isn't coming in for a full glass of mulled wine just yet. He's the driver at this do.
And aside from the latter, rates aren't great. This is not aggressive pricing - it's just unpleasant. For you, for me, the consumers. Thanks guys.
Yeah, I get that the networks need to make money back from their hideously overpriced spectrum costs. Yes, they can't beast us for roaming anymore, so they have to find another way of holding us up by the danglies and shaking cash from our pockets. But for a service that isn't all there yet? Really? Is that the best way?
For those who want to replace their home broadband, don't get me wrong. 4G is great. But for those who want to use it on the move, it's not there yet. The only way to get a service that is 100% reliable is to stand still, which kinda negates the point. If you're using it to stream loads, you're gonna be paying loads. And moving little.
Long Term Evolution? The clue's in the name. As for the short term, all I can say is a seasonal 'Bah. Humbug.'
In fact, it's come to the point where 3G-only deals are quite good. And for those checking Facebook, streaming a bit of Spotify and are on Wi-Fi most of the time, they're probably much better off with an older connection for the money they'll pay.
Although, I'll be waiting a long time for Kevin Bacon to tell me that.
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