THE UK finally saw its first high-speed 4G service switched on yesterday after years of delays and legal threats between the country’s mobile networks.
EE, the parent of Orange and T-Mobile formerly known as Everything Everywhere, launched its 4G service in 11 UK cities and moved the first customers onto its new, third, network, also called EE.
EE claims the 4G service will offer speeds on average five times faster than current mobile data speeds, allowing faster downloads and trouble-free streaming of high-definition video.
The company now has an estimated seven-month headstart on rivals, which will not be able to launch 4G services until pre-approved spectrum is cleared for use.
Broadcasting regulator Ofcom granted EE early 4G clearance for its current mobile airwaves for 4G in August, a decision that sparked outrage from its rivals.
Ofcom will auction off three lots of new spectrum at the start of next year. The lots are expected to go to Vodafone, O2 and EE – which needs the extra spectrum to bolster the network it switched on today.
The country’s fourth operator, Three, will be able to run a 4G network using a slice of the airwaves EE was forced to sell off as a condition of gaining early access, although EE does not have to do so until next August.
EE’s service will cost on average £5 per month higher than 3G contracts with similar allowances, and will only be available on certain high-end handsets. The tariffs were criticised when announced last week, since at 4G speeds, the monthly data allowances of the cheaper tariffs could be used up within minutes.