Ever since last October, EE has had the 4G network all to its self in the UK. Its superfast LTE coverage is now available to almost 60% of the UK population, with some major cities seeing the network speeds doubled in recent months. It’s fair to say that the other popular carriers have got some way to catch up.
The latest to show its hand is O2, who has announced its plans to launch its own 4G LTE network from the end of this month. O2-flavored 4G will be available in a handful of cities from August 29th. If you’re living London, Leeds or Bradford, you’ll be able to get access to faster mobile speeds from that day. By the end of 2013 it should also be covering Birmingham, Newcastle, Glasgow, Liverpool, Nottingham, Leicester, Coventry, Sheffield, Manchester, and Edinburgh.
Is it enough? I’m not convinced. Plans will start from £26 per month, and with it only have a few cities covered, it’s hardly getting off to a good start. Especially considering that EE’s plans start from as little as £21 and its coverage is available in virtually all the major UK cities, with some even seeing speeds faster than fiber optic broadband.
In terms of development and precise details on price plans, O2 is being unusually secretive. It’s not announced any firm contract details except to say that users have a 30-day taster period to decide if they want the LTE coverage. If it doesn’t meet their expectations, they are free to switch back to 3G. We really know very little. We don’t know if users will have to pay a premium to access 4G, we don’t know if pay as you go plans will be available, or if the network plans on launching mobile broadband dongles for use on LTE.
Vodafone is also due to launch its 4G network this summer, and Three UK (the last major carrier) is due to start its own service a little later this year, towards October time. By year’s end, all four should have 4G available, but it is hard to see past EE’s airspace dominance. The others need to move very fast to catch up.