London - With the promise of a superfast internet connection, it was billed as one of the biggest technology launches the UK had seen.
But less than 24 hours after the 4G wireless service became available for mobile phones in 11 cities nationwide, questions were being asked about its claims to be five times faster than the current 3G network.
Initial reviews and online comments suggested speeds were not quite as promised – while some even suggested that 3G connections had been slowed down to make the new service look quicker by comparison.
The 4G network is available on Apple’s iPhone 5 as well as devices from HTC, Samsung, Nokia and Huawei. It was launched in Birmingham, Bristol, Cardiff, Edinburgh, Glasgow, Leeds, Liverpool, London, Manchester, Sheffield and Southampton.
EE, the company behind T-Mobile and Orange, launched its 4G service on Tuesday, a full six months before its major rivals Vodafone, O2 and Three, are able to enter the market.
Customers who sign up for a contract are being promised speeds of between eight and 12 megabits per second (Mbps), as fast as the average home broadband connection.
It means that from now on they should be able to download items, watch videos and view large documents without a long wait.
But the BBC’s technology correspondent Rory Cellan-Jones, who was among the first to try out the new service, said his own experience was less impressive.
“For 36 hours, I have been trying out 4G in two cities where it has been launched by the EE network,” he wrote. “Everywhere I’ve gone in London and Manchester, outside, indoors, on trains and in cars, I’ve used a speed-testing application.
“And while I’ve seen some breathtakingly fast results, there has also been some worrying evidence that the speed and extent of the 4G network is being oversold.”
He also claimed the 4G network would not stretch as far as his West London home.
There was further criticism from EE customers who had not upgraded to 4G, who claimed their 3G service had been slow or down all week ahead of the much-anticipated launch.
One wrote on Twitter: “My EE has been slow or down all week in London. Forcing people to upgrade to 4G by making 3G unusable. Where the hell is [communications regulator] Ofcom?”
Another commented: “Is the reason my Orange 3G has been so terribly slow in and around Heathrow recently a ploy to make 4G look faster than it actually is?”
On Wednesday night, an EE spokesman insisted that its 3G services had not been slowed to highlight its new service, adding: “This is the fastest network roll-out of its kind anywhere in the world. By the time other networks finally launch their own 4G services, EE will have an unrivalled 4G network and will continue to build on this.” - Daily Mail