O2 has announced its plans to offer 4G in the UK on 29 August this year. The service is set to rollout in London, Leeds and Bradford, with a further 10 cities expected by the year’s end. With Three and Vodafone yet to confirm dates for their 4G rollouts, O2’s only 4G competition at present in the UK is EE.
The announcement, spotted over at the BBC will help the UK play catch-up with America, where 4G, also known as LTE, has been available for four years. But it isn’t just America O2 is playing catch-up with.
On launch in October 2012, EE’s 4G coverage extended across eleven cities. Now, its high speed mobile internet covers ninety-five towns and cities, with more than a hundred expected by the time O2’s 4G rollout takes place. This is significantly higher than the three confirmed by O2.
What’s more, fifteen cities have already seen a rollout of EE’s double speed 4G, boasting theoretical download speeds of up to 150Mbps. While double speed generally manages around 30Mbps, this still puts all the other networks, including O2, behind EE on launch.
Another point to note in relation to 4G is spectrum.
O2’s parent company, Telefonica, purchased £550m of 800MHz spectrum in the UK. In contrast, other networks including EE and Vodafone purchased a mix of 800MHz and 2.6GHz. This could put O2 data reach at a disadvantage in densely populated towns and cities in the future.
The iPhone 5’s 4G radio is also incompatible with the 800MHz frequency, raising a question mark above where current iPhone 5 handset owners and potential buyers will stand when the rollout takes place.
While little is known about the breadth of O2’s pricing, O2 has confirmed that its cheapest 4G tariff would cost £26 per month. This is £5 more than EE’s lowest offering, however with no tariff details outlined, a price comparison at this stage is unfair. Like EE though, O2 was able to confirm that its 4G tariffs wouldn’t offer unlimited data plans.