Profile: Sir Charlie Mayfield

John Lewis Partnership Chairman

Operators' marketing messages to vary in 4G battle

O2, Vodafone, Three and EE are to take different approaches to communicate the benefits of 4G to consumers as they look to stand out from the pack when the majority of services launch in the next quarter.

EE Brand Video

A still-frame from EE’s brand concept video

Ofcom announced Three, BT, O2 and Vodafone had won 4G licences in its £2.3bn spectrum auction earlier this week, which are due to launch in late spring. EE, which was the first to launch 4G in the UK after being allowed to use its existing spectrum to run the faster network, was granted additional bandwidth.

O2 intends to promote the additional digital services 4G’s high speeds will afford it.

Ronan Dunne, O2 CEO, says: “While 4G will indeed allow for faster data speeds and a more seamless mobile experience, it is our intention to go beyond what has already been offered in the market and give our customers a unique and exclusive range of digital experiences, marking a new generation for the mobile industry.”

Similarly, EE’s chief of brand and communications Steven Day told Marketing Week earlier this week it is to switch its message to how 4G lets customers access content such as music and video services, rather than the connectivity message fronted by actor Kevin Bacon it has run since launch.

Vodafone began its 4G push in October, even before it was confirmed it had been granted a slice of the 4G spectrum, as it looked to downplay EE’s launch. Its print and outdoor marketing activity to date has focused on the reliability of its forthcoming 4G network and its commitment to providing 98 per cent indoor coverage.

This messaging is likely to continue as it builds up to its official launch as the company bid and won the maximum allocation of the 800MHz spectrum it could - the frequency best for signals travelling over a long distance. It also picked up a third of the 2.6GHz high speed and high capacity spectrum and over half of the rest of the spectrum, which it will use to plug its masts into the “fibre backbone” it now owns as a result of acquiring Cable and Wireless Worldwide.

Three has already communicated to customers it will make its 4G services available to existing and new customers without charging a premium to upgrade. It is not expected to do more additional marketing around 4G because it believes its existing HSPA+ 3G technology already rivals 4G speeds, allowing theoretical download speeds of up to 128MBps.

BT, meanwhile, is not using its 4G to build a mobile network offer but will be utilising the spectrum to enhance its existing WiFi hotspot strategy. The 2.6GHz spectrum it has acquired is more suited to broadband services.

Full details on the operators’ above the line marketing plans are expected to be revealed from the end of March.

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