"Accrington StanlEE? 'Oo are they?" "Ech-zachlEE." It's the most tenuous PR stunt of the year, fuelled entirely by 80s nostalgia, and I'm absolutely fine with that.
The historic Lancashire town of Accrington is the 100th UK town to get EE's pricey 4G service, and it's celebrating with Liverpool legend Ian Rush, most famous to non-football fans as the inspiration to these milk-loving Scouse scamps.
Rushie's delivering EE to Accrington Stanley Football Club (it's a real club! I know, I was amazed too), which gets free mobile broadband in the clubhouse as a thank you for putting up with EE's oddball stuntery.
"Our 4G network is just ten months old and we’re delighted to have reached the 100 milestone so quickly. With Accrington named as our 100th 4G town we wanted to take this opportunity to have some fun celebrating the fantastic efforts of our network team," said EE's Steven Day. "We’re all about connecting people and football legend Ian Rush is intrinsically connected to Accrington thanks to the 1980s Milk Board ad which can be still be enjoyed today online and streamed without any annoying buffering on your mobile thanks to 4G!"
Of course. That explains everything.
Nine other towns will be able to pay over the odds for their mobile data from this month, with Ashford, Bicester, Colchester, Guildford, Milton Keynes, Redhill, Sevenoaks, Tunbridge Wells and Woking all unfortunately lacking seminal cultural moments such as an 80s TV ad to refer to. They take the total to 105 municipalities blessed with the wonder of superfast mobile broadband.
Five towns that already have 4G are getting speed upgrades too. Sunderland, Sutton Coldfield, Walsall, West Bromwich and Wolverhampton all benefit from double-speed 4G, which EE reckons averages around 24-30Mbps -- better than the average home broadband. Double-speed 4G is now available in 20 towns and cities.
There's a reason EE's harnessed the publicity catnip of childhood nostalgia to boast about its widespread coverage: O2 and Vodafone are about to launch their own 4G services very soon, but in only a few places. Vodafone 4G will be in London only, while O2 is launching in London, Leeds and Bradford, with both rolling out to more places before the end of the year.
Should you sign up to any of them? Not yet, we reckon. O2 and Vodafone's deals aren't significantly better than EE's and, infuriatingly, none of them provide unlimited data (apart from the first three months on Voda). Vodafone gives you free Spotify or Sky Sports though, which is a pretty decent perk if you're in the capital.
It'll be next year before 4G is truly nationwide and prices begin to drop. I'd stick with 3G if I were you, unless you live in a well-covered area and really need to know your data will arrive speedily when it's required. Or you just want to show off in the pub -- hey, it's your money. Ian Rush says you should let me know what you think down in the comments, or on our nostalgia-fuelled Facebook page.