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EE Offers All Customers Free Unlimited Data But There's a Catch

EE customers can now keep using their mobile data after they exceed their monthly allowances, but speeds will fall to a glacial 0.5Mbps.

The mobile operator’s ‘Stay Connected’ service launched yesterday, 7 July 2021, for all new ‘Smart’ and ‘Essential’ Pay Monthly handset plans and SIM-only plans. With the service, new and renewing customers will technically have unlimited data, at no additional charge. The feature will switch on automatically once you’ve exhausted your allowance. Previously, you'd be disconnected from mobile internet and need to purchase more data to keep surfing.

EE says it’s now the “only network in the UK to ensure customers across all of its new tiers of Pay Monthly plans are always connected at no extra cost if their monthly high-speed data allowance runs out.”

But of course, there’s a catch: any data consumed outside of your allowance will be delivered at speeds of just 0.5Mbps. NHS staff will be able to keep growing at 2Mbps (more on this below).

For context, average downloads speeds on EE’s 4G network were 36.4Mbps in October 2020, according to an analysis by OpenSignal. If you’re living, working or travelling in the 160 cities and towns covered by EE’s 5G (and have a compatible smartphone), you’ll get average download speeds of 149.9Mbps (according to September 2020 tests run by Point Topic). In contrast, 0.5Mbps is around the speed of the old dial-up internet.

EE says that 0.5Mbps is “fast enough for customers to send and receive data messages, check their emails on the go, and get where they need to with access to maps.” However, you may struggle to load Google Maps in new locations.

Marc Allera, chief executive of BT’s consumer division, said: “We’re always looking for ways to offer our customers the best experience when using our award winning 4G and 5G networks. That’s why we’re introducing ‘Stay Connected’ data in our new pay monthly plans, becoming the only major UK network to enable customers to stay connected at no extra cost when their monthly data allowance runs out.”

However, the usefulness of EE's offer might be limited. Most mobile phone users in the UK already pay for more data than they actually use. A survey from Which? found that consumers 'waste' an average of 14GB of data each month. Nearly half (47%) of mobile phone subscribers use less than 3GB of data each month, while around three-quarters (72%) use less than 5GB.

Meanwhile, EE’s offer of unlimited data for NHS workers, launched in the early weeks of the pandemic and repeatedly extended, has finally ended. At its height 300,000 NHS staff were benefitting from unlimited mobile data—an offer EE said was worth up to £350 to each member.

However, participating NHS staff will now be automatically enrolled in the 'Stay Connected' service, with any usage outside their allowances speed-limited at a higher 2Mbps.EE says this speed is “fast enough for instant messaging, web browsing and streaming music and video.”

NHS workers new to EE or upgrading will now also benefit from 20% of their monthly bill—an offer they can extend to four family members or friends. EE will also fast-track mobile phone repairs for NHS workers. To access the repair service, subscribers can pop into an EE store or have a courier dispatched to collect their device from their home or work. They’ll also be able to borrow a replacement phone from EE while theirs is fixed.

NHS workers can register for the discount from yesterday, using a valid NHS email address or NHS photo ID.

And as EE gives, it also takes away. The mobile operator will become the first network to reintroduce mobile roaming charges in Europe following the UK's exit from the EU. From January 2022, EE customers will face a £2 daily fee to use their mobile data allowance in 47 European countries.

Lauren Smith
Lauren Smith

Lauren Smith has worked as a journalist and copywriter for most of the last decade, covering technology, energy, and consumer rights, in the US and UK.

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