EE set to launch the UK's first 4G network months ahead of rivals

By Lee Kaelin on September 11, 2012, 1:00 PM

The UK's first superfast 4G mobile broadband network is set to launch after wireless operator Everything Everywhere announced it will start to roll out its fourth-generation wireless service to four cities including London within weeks and increase coverage to 16 cities by the end of the year.

Everything Everywhere also rebranded itself as EE and will launch a new fiber broadband network, with up to 11 million homes expected to be eligible for the service by the New Year. As part of the makeover, the company intends to rename its existing Orange and T-Mobile retail stores as EE.

The firm's 4GEE service will run on its 1800MHz band using existing Orange and T-Mobile network infrastructure, which is currently being tested in Birmingham, Bristol, Cardiff and London. By the end of the year, Belfast, Derby, Edinburgh, Glasgow, Hull, Leeds, Liverpool, Manchester, Nottingham, Newcastle, Sheffield and Southampton will all have 4G, with 98% of the UK to follow by 2014.

Several handsets will be offered with the service and Nokia's next-generation flagship Lumia 920 is rumored to be an EE exclusive. EE said it plans to offer smartphones from HTC, Nokia, Samsung and Huawei at launch. Those waiting for Apple's next iPhone will also be pleased to hear that Olaf Swantee of EE "hinted heavily" that it could be offered to customers once launched, according to the Telegraph.

Monthly service prices have yet to be confirmed, but we would expect rates similar to what top-end smartphones typically cost on contract. It's also uncertain how fast EE's network will operate, though recent trials by rival O2 reported that users were downloading at speeds of up to 100Mbps, a stark increase over 3G networks that struggle to maintain 5Mbps.

EE's competitors are not happy as the firm has at least a three-month head start on its opponents after Ofcom agreed the company could reuse its existing mobile spectrum to provide its 4G service. Its rivals are now considering court action against Ofcom, as they have to wait until the end of the year before they can purchase the spectrums they need in the much-delayed government auctions.

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