Today is the day we finally see the end of EE’s 4G LTE monopoly in the UK. Since October last year the company – made up from a merger between Orange and T-Mobile – has been the only carrier offering LTE coverage anywhere in the UK, and its rollout has been impressive. In just 10 months, the network provider has gone from 0-60% of the UK population covered and has even doubled its speeds to a theoretical maximum of 80Mbps in key cities.
Now it’s time for the catch-up race to begin as O2 and Vodafone begin their challenge to the turquoise carrier. Both of Britain’s former ‘Big Two’ have flipped the switch and Londoners can now get a taste of 4G speeds providing they have a 4G plan and compatible handset. (iPhone 5 – sadly – isn’t included since it’s only compatible with 1800MHz bands used by EE.) O2 has also made its LTE available in Leeds and Bradford today, while other cities will be added by both network providers before the end of this year.
Both O2 and Vodafone seek to have 98% of the UK’s population covered by the end of 2015. A full year after EE should have the same percentage of Britons within reach of its “4GEE”.
The one carrier we’re very interested in hearing from here is Three. Who – until today – had kept very quiet except to say that there will be no premium charged for accessing LTE. In short, if you have The One Plan with unlimited data now, that’s what you’ll have when Three switches its 4G on. What’s more, because the carrier obtained some of the 1800MHz spectrum won at auction by EE, it’ll also be the only other carrier whose iPhone 5 is compatible with LTE. It’ll be the most seamless switch by any of the major operators in the UK.
Three will be turning on 4G in December this year with the same aim to bring 98% coverage by the end of 2015.