We’re in the midst of a 4G superfast mobile revolution. Honestly we are. Okay, so it’s been a bit of a slow starter for the fast platform with just one (well, two actually – we’ll explain more later) network currently offering up LTE action.
But the other big networks are almost ready to roll now and have declared their 4G pricing plans for all to see. So read on to find out when your network is coming to the 4G party and how much you are going to have to pay to get involved.
EE (a joint effort by Orange and T-Mobile) had the privilege of being the first UK network to adopt the superfast network after rolling out its EE 4G network at the beginning of November 2012. Initially launched in 11 cities, the EE 4G network is now available in 85 towns and cities across the country, offering access to its superfast service to more than 55% of the UK population. The company states that it’s on track to cover 98% of the population by the end of 2014.
EE has also just announced that it is doubling the speed of its 4G LTE network in the UK with theoretical speeds up to 150mbps possible. Talking at the London announcement for the new service, Olaf Swantee, CEO of EE, made the claim that the new EE service would be ‘in line with the fastest networks in Korea’. The new faster EE 4G speeds will be rolled out in Birmingham, Bristol, Cardiff, Derby, Edinburgh, Glasgow, Leeds, Liverpool, London, Manchester, Nottingham and Sheffield.
EE’s 4G price-plans start from £26. For that you’ll only get 500MB of data though – which you’ll soon bash through if you plan on making the most of your fast connection on the go. An extra £5 doubles the data to 1GB and subsequent £5 increases add 500MB a time, until you get to £46; for that you’ll get a nice 10GB. £51 a month gets you 20GB. These plans are all 24-month ones. There are 12 month ones, although these are pretty pricey.
If you’re a heavy traveller, EE also has roaming 4G deals staring from £36. SIM only (12 month and 30 days) deals are available if you’ve already got your own 4G smartphone sorted. Starting from £21 (500MB), £36 for 5GB for 12 months seems a decent deal.
Vodafone has announced its Red 4G plans, with the network set to go live in London on 29 August. After London, launches in Birmingham, Bradford, Coventry, Edinburgh, Glasgow, Leeds, Leicester, Liverpool, Manchester, Newcastle, Nottingham and Sheffield will come before the end of the year. Vodafone says that it will bring indoor 4G coverage to 98% of the UK population by 2015.
The good news is that if you are already on a Vodafone Red contract, and you already own a 4G-ready device you can simply pay an extra £5 a month for the 4G action. You’ll also get access to Spotify Premium or Sky Sports Mobile TV as a bonus, along with double the amount of data you currently get.
All of Vodafone’s 4G 24-month, 12-month and SIM only plans come with either Sky Sports Mobile TV or Spotify Premium, plus unlimited calls and texts. Vodafone Data Test Drive, which provides unlimited data for the first three months, is also offered – followed by either 2GB (Red), 4GB (Red L) or 8GB (Red XL) of data per month. You’ll get a free, top-end, smartphone on deals from £42 per month.
12-month SIM only deals start from £26 a month. For that, you’ll get 2GB of data and 6-months access to one of the entertainment options.
O2 will also go live with 4G on 29 August in London, Leeds and Bradford. By the end of the year, O2’s 4G network will be live in 13 cities. O2’s rollout plan aims to make 4G available to an additional two million people per month, culminating in O2’s 2G, 3G and 4G network reaching 98% of the UK population both indoor and outdoor.
Like EE and Vodafone, O2’s 4G plans start at £26 a month. This will get you the same 1GB of mobile data as found on EE, but only half that of Vodafone’s 4G Red entry package. However, there is an introductory offer that will more than double your data on the higher tier plans (if you sign up before the end of October). Bump the monthly fee up to £31 a month and you’ll get 5GB of data. An extra fiver on top of that gets you 8GB.
You can cut the price by opting for one of O2’s Refresh contracts (where you don’t get a free handset, instead pay off the cost of a handset monthly). On this 1GB will set you back £22 per month, 5GB (3GB after October) will cost £27, or 8GB (5GB after October) for £32.
Three is looking to shake things up later in the year with its 4G coverage coming at no extra cost. The company has just released a statement saying:
“We’re on track to launch in Q4 and we will offer 4G at no extra charge. When we switch on our 4G network well over a million of our customers will already have a 4G device so they will get automatic and hassle-free access in 4G areas without the need to change plans or SIM cards. Everyone on Three with a 4G device will be able to enjoy our 4G services as we roll out the network across the country to add capacity to what is already the UK’s fastest 3G network.”
Those are the main networks covered, but what of the mobile virtual network operators? MVNOs are the brands that ‘piggy-back’ off of the main networks. And they’re looking to get in on the 4G fun. Phones 4U has announced that it will launch a virtual 3G network on EE’s infrastructure with 4G LTE to come. Tesco Mobile and Giffgaff, who both use O2’s network, also have eyes on 4G – although pricing details are yet to be declared. And then there’s BT.
Yep, good old BT. The company pulled out of the UK mobile phone market in 2002 when it relinquished its ownership in O2, but CEO Ian Livingston has given a strong indication that it will return – this time with a new 4G service. The telecom giant won £200 million worth of 2.6GHz spectrum in the bandwidth auction and is looking to use it to offer a BT-branded 4G SIM next year.