The UK finally has a competitive 4G market. Operators Vodafone and O2 have both switched on their 4G networks in competition with EE, which has had the market all to itself since October 2012.
Both firms have switched on 4G networks in London, while O2 also has services live in Leeds and Bradford. Both firms' offerings start at £26 with a bundles of sports and music deals added to try and entice consumers to upgrade.
Both firms also promise to have 4G live in Leicester, Liverpool, Manchester, Edinburgh, Nottingham and Sheffield before the end of the year.
The firms promise speeds of at least five times faster than current 3G offerings and will be hoping to match the strong growth seen by EE, which has 687,000 customers on 4G.
However, both firms face a challenge in convincing customers of the benefits, as a recent V3 poll found that many readers see 4G as a gimmick and say 3G and WiFi services are adequate for their needs.
Furthermore, Vodafone and O2 cannot offer the iPhone 5 on their 4G networks as its is not compatible with their 800MHz or 2.6GHz spectrum holdings. The firms will be hoping that the new iPhone addresses this issue so customers will upgrade quickly.
The switch-on of the 4G networks marks a point in the UK’s telecoms history many thought would take years to arrive after in-fighting dogged the market for years, with government intervention required to allow EE to roll out ahead of its rivals.
It has since added over 100 towns to its 4G network since going live and has some notable corporate customers on its network, such as the Royal Berkshire NHS Foundation Trust.
With O2 and Vodafone entering the market Ronan de Renesse, telecoms analyst at Analysys Mason, said he expects the number of 4G users in the UK to rocket in the coming years.
“The UK will be the third-largest 4G market in Europe by the end of 2014, with nearly eight million connections, after France and Germany,” he said. “The country’s thirst for high-end mobile devices such as smartphones and tablets will be a major driver for 4G connectivity.”
O2 and Vodafone will certainly be hoping to take a sizeable portion of that eight million, having watched rival EE have the 4G market to itself for so long.
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