Will 4G drive greater network-to-network competition?

In the UK, mobile networks tend not to compete on a technology level. The benefits of greater coverage or improved network reliability are typically overshadowed as the operator instead promotes  a ‘lifestyle’ choice or a  price benefit. Ironically, in doing so they often end-up promoting third-party OTT players instead of their own value.

US operators have a greater legacy of competing at the network level. Up until recently, drive through any US city and you’d find advertisements claiming better coverage then the next guy; AT&T’s ‘More Bars in More Places’ campaign was the focus of nationwide television and billboard advertising for several years.

More recently, the US operators have dropped the coverage angle and focused on speed comparisons. Today, in the wake of 4G rollouts, the gloves are off and the competition is really hotting up. T-Mobile’s latest offer (as part of its Test Drive campaign) takes a direct swipe at AT&T’s speed (interestingly getting sucked into the iPhone marketing vacuum at the same time – oh, when will they learn).

With 4G roll-outs in the UK imminent, it’s got me wondering if UK operators will go the same route? Is this a chance to finally build value-based relationships with consumers, not on price but on core competency? I pay a premium for my home broadband because my ISP promotes the robustness of its service, its speed and its traffic management. I’d do the same for my mobile operator if they were able to substantiate their claims.  I fear however, that 4G in the UK will quickly descend into a price war before it’s had time to establish true value. Hope I’m wrong.

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