All you need to know about the 4G rollout schedule in the UK
The UK only has one 4G LTE mobile broadband network, but that's going to change over the coming months. Here's everything we know about the 4G rollout schedule in the UK. Updated on 27/03/13.
With multiple 4G networks from various operators will come competitive pricing and more choice for consumers so we say bring it on. However, you're probably wondering 'when will I get 4G on my network?'. See: What is 4G? A complete guide to 4G.
A lot of details are vague at the moment but here’s everything we know about the rollout of 4G networks in the UK. We'll update this article as and when we hear any more specific information and dates.
See also: 4G vs 3G network hands-on speed test.
4G rollout schedule: EE
EE is currently the UK's only live 4G network. The service was switched on and launched on 30 October and the firm has had a monopoly in the 4G market ever since, although it has been heavily criticised for it expensive price plans with limit amounts of data.
At the time of writing EE's 4G LTE network is available in a total of 27 towns and cities across the UK accounting for coverage of 45 percent of the population.
Looking forward, EE plans to reach 70 percent of the UK by the end of 2013 and 98 percent by the end of 2014.
See also: EE 4G in the UK: what you need to know
4G rollout schedule: Vodafone and O2
The reason EE is still the only 4G network in the UK is because it was given permission by regulator Ofcom to use exiting spectrum (1800MHz) which it already owned.
Ofcom said it was giving EE a head start to ensure consumers in the UK got 4G as quickly as possible for their own benefit. It said there was "no material risk that those benefits would be outweighed by a distortion of competition".
Other mobile operators, including Vodafone and O2, had to wait for Ofcom to hold an auction in which they could purchase 4G spectrum (800MHz and 2.6GHz). This auction has now ended and both Vodafone and O2 won spectrum.
O2 purchased 800MHz lots and Vodafone won both 800MHz and 2.6GHz lots. See also: Ofcom announces 4G auction winners.
The word from Ofcom is that UK mobile operators will be able to roll out their 4G networks in 'late spring' or 'early summer' once fees have been paid and licences granted.
4G rollout schedule: Three
Three has signed a deal with EE to use part of its network for 4G services. EE was obliged to do this as part of a commitment with the European Commission.
A Three spokesman told us the network will go live when the spectrum has been handed over from EE. This is likely to take place in September.
However, Three is also taking part in the 4G auction which we've mentioned so it's possible the firm will buy its own spectrum and use that ahead of the deal with EE.
Importantly, Three has announced that its customers won't be charged extra for 4G. Neither will they have to change tariff as 4G will be standard on all price plans.
See also: Three to offer free 4G LTE broadband
Three won 800MHz spectrum in the 4G auction but has said it's in no rush to rollout 4G, stating that it will wait until the fourth quarter after rival networks have launched.
4G rollout schedule: Phones 4U
In a similar deal to Three's, Phones 4U will launch a virtual 4G network using EE's infrastructure. The service, called LIFE Mobile, will launch in March as 3G only and will be upgraded to 4G sometime later in the year.
Read more: Phones 4U to launch 4G mobile network
4G rollout schedule: Orange and T-Mobile
Orange and T-Mobile are owned by EE and use the EE network. Customers wishing to use 4G must upgrade to an EE price plan.