EE is finally facing competition in the 4G arena, after O2 UK and Vodafone UK yesterday launched commercial LTE services.
With both of the second- and third-placed players having switched on their networks, O2 UK is initially providing services over a wider coverage area, having confirmed that its LTE plans are available in London, Leeds and Bradford. Looking ahead, the cellco has reiterated its previously announced plans to extend its network footprint to a further ten cities by the end of 2013, those being: Birmingham, Newcastle, Glasgow, Liverpool, Nottingham, Leicester, Coventry, Sheffield, Manchester and Edinburgh. As previously reported by CommsUpdate, earlier this month O2 said that it had an ‘ambitious rollout plan’ under which it will aim to make its 4G products available to an additional two million people per month, culminating in its combined 2G/3G/4G network footprint reaching 98% of the population, both indoor and outdoor.
For its part, Vodafone UK’s LTE infrastructure will initially only be accessible to customers in the capital, London. However, with the operator saying it plans to switch on a new site in the capital ‘every 30 minutes … over the next two months’, it has revealed that its 4G network will be opened for business in Birmingham, Coventry, Leicester, Nottingham and Sheffield within a month. Meanwhile, by the end of this year Vodafone’s 4G services are set to be on offer in Bradford, Edinburgh, Glasgow, Leeds, Liverpool, Manchester and Newcastle, while it is aiming to achieve 98% population coverage by 2015. With Vodafone having actually started selling tariffs ahead of its commercial launch, it has also confirmed that more than 20,000 people had signed up its ‘4G-ready’ plans for prior to the network going live.
Rounding out a trio of LTE-related developments in the UK, the market’s smallest operator in terms of subscribers, Hutchison 3G UK, which offers services under the ‘Three’ (‘3’) banner, has revealed the timetable for its 4G launch. As the only British cellco now not offering LTE-based services, Three has confirmed it will inaugurate its 4G network in December 2013, with coverage at launch limited to London, Birmingham and Manchester. Beyond that, the operator has said it will look to roll out in a further 50 cities by the end of 2014 while, like Vodafone, it is targeting 98% population coverage by end-2015.