World Cup wonder goal is 2014's 4G highlight as 5.7M sign up to EE

The UK's first LTE network now has 7.7 million 4G customers -- and their peak for downloading last year was Tim Cahill's sensational strike against the Netherlands.

Richard Trenholm Former Movie and TV Senior Editor
Richard Trenholm was CNET's film and TV editor, covering the big screen, small screen and streaming. A member of the Film Critic's Circle, he's covered technology and culture from London's tech scene to Europe's refugee camps to the Sundance film festival.
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Tim Cahill scores one of the 2014 FIFA World Cup's most stunning goals in the match between Australia and the Netherlands. Dean Mouhtaropoulos/Getty Images

Australian Tim Cahill's World Cup wonder goal was the biggest moment in 2014 for 4G fans as EE added nearly 6 million customers to its super-fast LTE network.

Of the 5.7m 4G customers added in 2014, 1.7 million signed up in the last two months of the year, suggesting 4G uptake is accelerating. That's good news for EE, which could have seen numbers slow as rival networks got into the game after a year-long head start in which EE was the only 4G network.

With all these data-hungry 4G fans signing up to enjoy extra-fast speeds it's no surprise that the amount of Internet used also went through the roof. 2014 saw six times as much data gobbled up as 2013. The peak for uploading was New Year's Eve as everybody sent selfies to Instagram and Whatsapp, while the peak for downloading was Australian striker Tim Cahill's fantastic left foot volley against the Netherlands in their World Cup tie on 19 June.

The new customers take EE's total number of 4G subscribers to 7.7 million.

"5.7 million net additions was an impressive number for EE," says industry analyst Kester Mann of CCS Insight. "According to our research, EE has more 4G customers than any other operator in Europe."

Mann attributes this growth to the introduction of new tariffs, the launch of pay-as-you-go services, a decline in smartphone costs and wider coverage.

EE now offers 4G service in 510 UK towns and cities and 3,894 villages, reaching more than 80 percent of the population. In some cases, those rural outposts are enjoying decent Internet speeds for the first time. Fixed line broadband hadn't reached them because of their remoteness or the size of their population -- the smallest village covered by EE, the wonderfully-named Elvanfoot in South Lanarkshire, totals just 52 people. Hello to everyone in Elvanfoot!

Predictably enough, the hotspot for 4G is in London's hipster capital Tech City -- better known as Silicon Roundabout -- where early adopters, tech startups and standard issue hipsters make the most of doubled 4G+ speeds.

Kester Mann predicts "continued strong growth in 2015 as smartphone prices continue to fall and awareness of 4G technology among consumers continues to increase." 2015 will be a big year for EE: not only has the network expanded into TV with the EE TV set-top box, it is also set to be swallowed up by BT in a £12.5 billion deal. It's essential for the network that EE continues to win 4G customers from rivals O2, Vodafone and Three.