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EE switches on the UK’s first 4G networks

EE (formerly Everything Everywhere) flicked the switch on its new 4G mobile networks on Tuesday, pledging to support 70% of the UK by the end of the year and 98% by 2014. The 4G announcement is coupled with the company's rebranding into "EE."

According to EE, owner of the Orange and T-Mobile brands, the new networks are five times faster than its current 3G offering, with rapid download speed of up to 40Mbps per second and upload speeds of up to 15Mbps a second.

Although not officially launched, 4G is now operational in four cities across Britain: London, Bristol, Cardiff and Birmingham and is undergoing testing. These cities are expected to enjoy full capacity 4G, along with Leeds, Sheffield, Manchester, Liverpool, Glasgow, Edinburgh, Newcastle, Belfast, Southampton, Hull, Nottingham and Derby before the end of the year.

The news that 4G will be available in 16 cities by Christmas is undoubtedly a boost for the UK which has already fallen behind other countries in terms of next generation mobile. 

EE won permission to launch 4G services in an Ofcom ruling published on 21 August. However rivals O2 and Vodafone have threatened legal action, claiming they are being made to wait to launch their 4G services as they do not have any spare spectrum to use.

According to the Financial Times, Ministers were forced to step in and broker a peace deal, among the warring networks, as the prospect of legal action threatened to further delay Ofcom’s auction to divide up the radio frequencies reserved for these services, among operators. 

Next-generation mobile internet is seen by the government as important for fostering a national digital economy, while it can also be used to link up rural areas unable to access fibre infrastructure.

It’s hoped that the current amnesty will result in agreement to bring forward the date when the other groups could roll out rival 4G services and so reduce the exclusivity period for EE. However, O2, Vodafone and Three will still need to wait until after the results of the auction, expected in the first quarter next year.

EE will offer several handsets to use with the service. By the end of the year, Samsung's Galaxy S III LTE; HTC's One XL and Huawei's Ascend P1 LTE will be available to EE customers. The company will also offer Nokia's Lumia 820 and Lumia 920 - the latter of which the company has as an exclusive deal.

Apple’s new iphone, expected to be unveiled on Wednesday, will also be 4G enabled  but it is not yet clear if it will work on the frequencies that EE's early services will use.

"4G will bring a more reliable connection," EE chief executive Olaf Swantee told the BBC. "When you see that it can do so much more than the current network, people will have a great appetite for it."


Related content:

Ofcom approves early 4G rollout for Everything Everywhere 

4G - stop the feuding

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