EE controversially launches 4G

In a move likely to enrage other UK network providers, EE becomes the only phone company to offer 4G. But only 16 cities will get access by Christmas.

by Elizabeth Anderson
Last Updated: 12 Dec 2014
It’s been a long time coming. Whispers began nearly 10 years ago about a new rival to the third-generation (3G) mobile phone network. Today it was confirmed that 4G will arrive in the UK ‘within weeks,’ offering speeds five times faster than regular 3G.

Millions of people across the UK will get access to the superfast technology by Christmas, but only in 16 cities (so if you live in the Highlands, chances are you’ll miss out this year). And there’s another catch – you’ll only get access if your service provider is EE (the company has ditched the longer but no less uninspiring ‘Everything Everywhere’ tag).

It’s a blow for the likes of Three, Vodafone and O2, who can’t offer 4G to their customers until next year. The three have already threatened legal action against Ofcom’s ruling last month that EE could launch 4G from early September. It was a controversial decision from the independent regulator, as it gave EE (the owner of Orange and T-Mobile and the UK’s largest mobile phone provider) an unfair leg-up in the race to offer superfast internet access. Three, Vodafone and O2 are still waiting to get access to the 4G spectrum.

Unveiling the new service in London’s Science Museum today Olaf Swantee, EE’s chief executive, said the 4G launch is another ‘great moment for the country in 2012.’ The service will be available on HTC, Samsung, Nokia and Huawei devices and ‘one more to come’, Swantee said (if it’s not Apple's iPhone 5 MT will eat its own sim card). It means Britain is no longer lagging behind countries such as the US and Germany with its 4G roll-out, he added.

London Mayor Boris Johnson also turned up to champion the ‘4G revolution’ - although admitted he barely understood what it means. ‘4G is obviously not to be confused with G4S,’ he said, but did get the essential point: ‘information will now spout in unbelievable, unstoppable quantities from these devices.’

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