EE CEO: Telco pleasantly “surprised” by 4G adoption from SMB customers

To say that Olaf Swantee, the CEO of EE, was slightly enthused this morning during the company’s #OneStepAhead event would be a gross understatement. He was positively inspired by what he had to say.

Swantee, as the man heading one of UK’s leading communications companies, oversaw the merger of two of the most famous brands in the country, T-Mobile and Orange.

Together, they account for 27m customers serviced by 15,000 employees, with an armada of around 600 retail stores. In addition, a third brand, which currently lives alongside these two brands, was launched, with its own set of challenges like having to build a new retail infrastructure and integrated IT systems.

But Swantee was clearly unfazed. EE is the first network operator looking to push device manufacturers and software ecosystems to their limits, he said before adding that “we’re pushing the boundaries of the [mobile] industry”.

Customers are backing his stance. An estimated 30 to 40 per cent of 3G customers from T-Mobile or Orange are willing to upgrade to 4G when presented with that option. And the all-important conversion ratio from 3G to 4G in EE stores is typically double what one would expect in a 3G-to-3G scenario when applications are demonstrated.

“Innovation matters and we believe EE is driving innovation” continued Swantee. “Innovation” he added, “is highly dependent on ability to secure spectrum”. EE has the UK’s best spectrum portfolio with 36 per cent of all the airwaves in the UK.

The OneStepAhead event was held by EE to announce that it intended to up the average speed of 4G customers in 10 major cities in the UK to 20Mbps with the “up to” speed raised to 80Mbps.

That is expected to expand to 98 per cent coverage of the UK households by 2014. “This is an evolution of 4G that others cannot match, neither today, nor in the future.” Swantee added.

He also said that the update of 4G in business especially in the SMB market had surprised EE given that businesses are notoriously slow at adopting new technology. As for B2B customers, more than 1,000 corporate connections/accounts have been signed and done.

He quoted the figure of “1 in 4” of all new sales were to businesses, driven perhaps, he said, by the fact that workforces need fast and reliable mobile access to critical applications.