EE, the UK’s largest mobile operator, launched its own TV service, as it looks to compete in the emerging quadplay market.
EE TV will offer live and recorded content which can be viewed on TVs, mobile devices and tablets via a set-top box. In keeping with the company’s mobile focus, the EE TV app enables smartphones to be used as remotes for controlling content broadcast from the TV box.
The service will offer 70 Freeview channels, a 24-hour replay service and scope to add extra on-demand and catch-up TV channels, including BBC iPlayer, YouTube, Demand 5, Daily Motion and Wuaki.tv.
The service allows users to watch different programmes on a TV and up to three smartphones or tablets at the same time via a set-top box. It also provides the option to record four programmes simultaneously, with the set-top box having a 1TB capacity, which equates to 25 days’ worth of content.
EE TV is free with EE’s home broadband and landline packages which start at £9.95 per month for EE mobile customers, who will receive an increased data allowance to support the service.
There are plans to enable the EE TV service on EE’s 4G network in the future, with video content already accounting for more than half of the data traffic on EE’s 4G network.
Olaf Swantee, the CEO of EE, said that as the UK’s largest and fastest network, EE has “unrivalled insight into people’s changing viewing habits”, which helped it to create “a service that has mobile at its heart, and makes the TV experience more personal than ever before”.
The launch of the service brings EE into competition with the likes of Virgin Media and BT. The latter will reportedly launch consumer mobile services in the first quarter of the next financial year, after a delay caused by issues with its Wi-Fi handover technology.
Paolo Pescatore, director for apps and media at analyst firm CCS Insight, said the launch is “hugely significant” and demonstrates “the growing need for telcos to offer multi-play services”.
“EE has thrown down the gauntlet and today’s announcement puts the pressure on others to accelerate their own quadplay plans,” he added. However, the analyst suggested the offering could benefit from having a greater breadth of on-demand services.
Imran Choudhary, senior analyst at Kantar Worldpanel, talked up the service’s multi-device offering: “A quarter of smartphone users already watch catch up TV on their phones and EE is set to take advantage of people’s increasingly digital lifestyles. By offering its box for free with home broadband, EE is likely to be an attractive option for those in the market looking for a good value set-top box as well as home broadband.”
It was reported recently that Vodafone UK is waiting to see what BT’s strategy will be before deciding whether to go down the quadplay route, in which mobile and fixed voice, broadband and television services are offered.
The fact that EE has now entered the market will clearly have an impact on Vodafone’s thinking.
Vodafone has been pursuing a quadplay strategy in other European markets: it acquired Kabel Deutschland for €7.7 billion in October last year and Spanish cable provider Ono for €7.2 billion earlier this year. Most recently, it struck a fibre-sharing agreement with Portugal Telecom, while there is also an ongoing bid with Wind for Greece’s Forthnet.