Book Review: The 4G Mobile Revolution by Olaf Swantee, with Stuart Jackson


A few years ago, two of the biggest mobile providers of UK merged to form a new company. A company whose name had clearly been the product of a meeting full of PR people. When Orange and T-Mobile merged to a form ‘Everything Everywhere’, now better known as EE, the gamble was obvious. Big companies taking over smaller ones work for one simple reason. The smaller one gets absorbed into the bigger one, not normally leaving a trace of its former self. Big company mergers don’t quite work the same way. Both companies are often set in their ways, and are full of big egos. Few years later, EE is topping the charts for mobile services in the UK. Orange and T-Mobile were doing good. EE is a £12.5 billion success story that has conquered the UK mobile landscape.

While the success has been there for all to see, the innards of the operation have been relatively unknown. All that has changed with the recent book from Olaf Swantee, former CEO of EE, who was the former Executive Vice President of Orange before taking on the reins of the merger. In his book, ‘The 4G Mobile Revolution’, he goes through the nitty gritty of the operation, the expectations, the risks, the pitfalls and the eventual success.

The book starts off with some inspiration, but soon moves on to business and tackles the technicalities of having to form such a partnership. It doesn’t linger on that though, and quickly turns the focus on to building a successful business. Both Orange and T-Mobile were struggling. EE was potentially the new biggest provider in the country. To do so, one had to start with the people, and a team of people who were going to be quick to deliver, adaptable, and most importantly, ones who were up to the challenge.

When Olaf took over in 2011, he knew that something more was needed. He looked towards 4G as the possible potential for change. 4G was coming, and if they could deliver it better and earlier than others, they would surely take on the market. The plan was simple, but the execution not so much. Offering something like 4G isn’t just about upgrading your machinery. You need a chunk of the broadband spectrum, and this means dealing with the government. This is often a slow and painful process, but Olaf and his team managed to get it sorted as quickly as possible.

Now that the technology was there, they needed performance, and more so, they needed change. It is no secret that branding is everything. The book spends extra time going through the new branding, and talking about the whats and whys. 2012 was a big year for UK, with the Queen’s Jubilee and the Olympics. It was vital to get the launch right, and deliver when it mattered the most. As such, after a lot of planning and deliberation, EE officially announced itself to the world in October 2012.

As EE launched,  it brought 4G to customers. A cultural change was occurring as people started using their mobile phones to do more than just tweet, email or post pictures. 4G was offering speeds better than broadband, and video was taking over. 4G was offering people what they wanted in terms of the service. It was important to carry this on with the momentum, till the business became a success story.

The book gives the early years of the EE success story in an easy to read and pleasant manner. You don’t need to be a business expert to pick up this book, as it gives you plenty of mild mannered explanations of how business works, and what the challenges and concerns are when running a business. Bits of corporate and business speak do surface from time to time. Overall though, it is a must read for anybody who is interested in the mobile scene in the UK, or anybody with interest in how business work, and the challenges they have to go through from day to day.

More details on the book can be found on Kogan Page, its publisher. It is available in both paper back and as an e-book, and is available via various retailers such as Amazon.

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