It should already be happening and I’ve yet to work out why it hasn’t.
I’ve just moved house, and when I booked to have my BT landline and broadband moved to my new address – which already has a line installed – they said it’d be 3 weeks before the line was activated. Three weeks.
So, I popped down to Amazon and bought a £100 4G LTE WiFi router, which was delivered the same day, into which I shoved an EE sim I had lying around.
Hey presto. With 50% signal strength – without even hunting around the house for the strongest signal – it’s fast enough to watch iPlayer, YouTube or Netflix on my 4K TV, work from home over a VPN, download all my podcasts and listen to Spotify.
The SIM costs £25/month for unlimited data, and that’s the most expensive option. A light user can do it cheaper, especially if they combine a small data allowance with the £10 unlimited video bundle.
BT want £55/month (and a 3 week wait) for line & broadband.
There are three areas I can see that having the BT option would be better.
- Online gaming. I have a sense (though I haven’t tested it yet) that the 4G broadband will have far too much latency to make a decent fist of multiplayer iRacing, Assetto Corsa, Counterstrike or whatever other online PC game you want to play.
- Hosting stuff. I use a dynamic DNS service, which attaches a domain name I use for some websites to my home IP address. I’m pretty sure you can’t do this with 4G broadband, because you do not get your own IP address, you share one, which means inbound services are not possible.
- Downloading Terabytes of ‘stuff’ using BitTorrent, or starting your Bitcoin life, and doing your first download of its blockchain, which is currently running at around 260GB.
The trouble for BT is that the vast majority of people don’t do any of these things, and probably never will.
The stuff that almost everyone wants to do can be done for less than half the price with a 4G internet connection. I can choose a provider from the pay-as-you-go menu at my supermarket checkout and be setup with that new provider in 5 minutes. I can have a spare SIM on hand in case my usual provider has a problem and I can switch in another 5 minutes. Total flexibility and zero provider lock-in.
FOR. LESS. THAN. HALF. THE. PRICE.
Now, there will be some objections that I could get my broadband cheaper by going to Tank Tank, or Skym, or EhUpload or whoever… but most people don’t, and when they do, they find even worse customer service, and the same delays because it’s still BT at the back-end. People in the UK grew up with BT. It’s just there. BT survives in the consumer marketplace through customer inertia.
Increasing numbers of people are going to find all this out when they look for ways to fill that 3 week gap in their Internet service.
4G should already have killed BT off. 5G surely will.
The downside, of course, is that if you’re one of those people (like me) who wants to do the 3 things I mention above, landline and fibre broadband are going to start getting more expensive as they move towards being a niche product, beaten back by cheap, ubiquitous 4G & 5G data services. We will end up regressing to the point where the serious enthusiast has to pay a small fortune for a business-grade connection, just like we did 20 years ago.