UK 4G LTE race heats up; Vodafone and O2 go live, Three announces their plans
Today, August 29, the UK finally sees competition in the 4G LTE race, as both Vodafone and O2 flip the switches. Initially, coverage is minimal with Vodafone only covering London to begin with, and O2 just London, Leeds and Bradford. Great news for anyone who uses those carriers in those cities, but bad news for anyone who wants to use it with an iPhone at the moment, as both are incompatible with the current iPhone 5. The one we've been waiting on is Three, and their plans are now out in the open.
Three is perhaps the most exciting prospect for 4G LTE here in the UK, because of their price promise to existing customers. Every Three customer with a compatible device will just get 4G LTE when it arrives. No new contracts, no switching, no extra cost, and Three's famous all-you-can-eat mobile data as well. Just a "simple software update" and you're good to go. And, because Three acquired some of the 1800MHz spectrum from EE, there will be some coverage for the iPhone 5. But not until December.
December will see the big Three switch on, and the last of the big four carriers to start using 4G LTE. London, Birmingham and Manchester will be the first cities to gain coverage, with 50 more being added during 2014, and 98% population coverage aimed for by the end of 2015. Since Three already offers some impressive 3G data speeds, at least those not covered at first can take reasonable comfort in getting a good service already. Three really is the stand out carrier though, and while we don't yet know how pricing may be set for new customers, their commitment to their existing subscribers is far above the others.
With a new iPhone just around the corner, UK buyers will for the first time have a real choice over where to get their high-speed data to go with it. And that's pretty fantastic.