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UK’s first 4G network launched in 11 cities

The UK’s first 4G network, promising faster downloads and quicker internet, was switched on today in 11 cities.

Customers of mobile operator EE with suitably-equipped 4G-enabled smartphones and tablets can now access the firm’s high-speed network.

The move means that the UK has caught up with the likes of Germany and US by offering 4G to people in this country. The switch-on is also earlier than expected.

The launch sees London, Manchester, Bristol, Birmingham, Cardiff, Edinburgh, Leeds, Liverpool, Sheffield, Glasgow and Southampton getting access to 4G from this morning.

Customers with the latest iPhone 5, Samsung Galaxy S III (LTE) or similarly equipped devices will be able to use the network. They will also need to take out a 4G contract as well. The new 4G service has speeds of up to five times that of 3G allowing a 25MB video to be downloaded in around six seconds.

For years, customers have been waiting for the service to arrive as network operators tussled with each other over the launch of super-fast networks. EE (previously Orange and T-Mobile) wanted to launch 4G using radio bandwidth it previously had for 2G networks.

However, Vodafone and O2 complained about this saying it would give the company an unfair advantage as those two firms would have to wait until next year to bid for other parts of the radio spectrum before launching their 4G networks.

Telecoms watchdog Ofcom managed to appease Vodafone and O2 by bringing forward auctions for radio spectrum by six months, allowing EE to launch the 4G service today. The company has invested £22 million in bringing the network online.

EE Chief Sales Officer Marc Allera told the Telegraph that by “the end of 2014, 98 per cent of the population of the UK will be getting 4G.”
 

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