You know that feeling when you simply must watch the video of a man leaping towards a frozen pool – the one where the ice doesn’t break, and the man crashes onto the ice and it’s funny because the man hurts himself – but you can’t because you’re in the middle of a shop and the cashier says he can’t get YouTube on the cash register and he ends up calling security because you refuse to leave?
Well, that problem has finally been solved – the advent of 4G means you can stream HD video anywhere (well, OK, in certain areas in major cities). You probably already know this – EE has adverts for its new network everywhere. You can’t move for them. I’ve seen them so many times that those twin yellow circles are now burned into my retina, leaving the faint shadow of the EE logo hovering over everything I look at.
Anyway, I’ve been testing its new 4G network on the iPhone 5 – and it’s rather good.
When you have a 4G signal – which, outdoors, in the very centre of London is probably about half of the time – it is blisteringly quick. Watching iPlayer on the go, for instance, is seamless, with virtually no buffering at all. The fastest speed I recorded was about 20Mb/sec, which is roughly twice as quick as my copper-wire home broadband when it’s running at full pelt.
Move out of zone one, though, and you will start to struggle to connect to 4G. Another drawback is that it doesn’t tend to work very well indoors (which is apparently due to the frequency of the waves being less able to pass through walls but may as well be because it is the will of a malevolent, omnipotent salmon for all the good it will do you).
This makes you miss the 4G speeds even more: like you’ve been allowed a look through the window into connectivity heaven, where web pages load in a second and app download times are almost non existant, only to have it slammed on your fingers. In fairness, the network is still young and coverage will get better over time. If you’re a heavy mobile internet user – someone who, like me, can’t find their way out of their flat without resorting to Maps – then upgrading to 4G will make your life (marginally) better. The question is: are the few seconds you will save here and there worth the extra £10 a month? Or, to put it another way: how much do you need to watch that video?
NEED TO KNOW
■ 4G EE is currently available in London, Manchester, Birmingham, Bristol, Cardiff, Edinburgh, Glasgow, Leeds, Liverpool, Sheffield and Southampton.
■ When you are not in a 4G area your phone will resort to 3G or 2G.
■ EE’s 4G price is £36 with 500Mb data and £56 with 8Gb of data (both 24 months with unlimited texts and calls).
■ 4G networks are, in theory, capable of speeds of up to 1GB/sec – but don’t get your hopes up yet – we only hit around 20Mb/sec (still enough to play video without waiting all day for it to buffer).
■ Nationwide 4G on multiple networks will be available next summer.