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UK 4G Mobile Broadband Networks Go LIVE Today from Vodafone and O2

Thursday, August 29th, 2013 (1:46 am) - Score 1,304

Mobile operators O2 and Vodafone, which have a joint network sharing deal (here), will today switch-on their first superfast 4G (LTE) based Mobile Broadband networks using the new 800MHz frequency band in London (England). Both operators have a similar rollout plan and packages (albeit with different content offers).

The new network will initially focus on delivering coverage to around 5 million people across the cities of London, Leeds and Bradford in England. A further ten UK cities are then expected to go live by the end of 2013 – including Birmingham, Newcastle, Glasgow, Liverpool, Nottingham, Leicester, Coventry, Sheffield, Manchester and Edinburgh.

Both O2 and Vodafone ultimately hope to extend the reach of their shared 4G network to cover 98% of the UK population, both indoor and outdoor, over the next few years. In theory this should be easier to achieve with the 800MHz band, which can cover a wider area for a lower cost and is better at penetrating through walls than EE’s rival 1800MHz based solution. Vodafone also owns a big slice of the 2.6GHz band for 4G.

4G Spectrum Allocations

* O2 – 2 x 10MHz [Paired 800MHz]
* Vodafone – 2 x 10MHz [Paired 800MHz]
* Vodafone – 2 x 20MHz [Paired 2.6GHz]
* Vodafone – 1 x 25MHz [Unpaired 2.6GHz]

Earlier this year O2 spent £550 million to acquire their slice of the 4G pie at 800MHz, while Vodafone lashed out £802 million for a bite of both the 800MHz and 2.6GHz bands (here). This might seem like big money but it’s actually just a small fraction of the overpriced 3G auction that in 2000 netted a total of £22 billion, which left some operators to feel financially paralysed for several years. Thankfully the 4G auction was a lot more sensible, which should be good news for consumers.

How much does it cost?

Leaving aside the various phone bundles, both operators offer SIM-only packages on a 12 month contract that start from £26 a month.

On O2 this gets you unlimited uk texts, unlimited uk minutes, 1GB of data, free O2 Tracks (a music download and streaming service), Priority Sports (exclusive sports videos “from your heroes every week“), O2 WiFi access and free O2 Games for your Smartphone.

On Vodafone this gets you unlimited uk texts, unlimited uk minutes, 2GB of data, 750MB of data over BT WiFi Hotspots, Sky Sports TV content and premium Spotify music streaming access. We note that Vodafone also offers a 3-month Data Test Drive, which allows you to “use as much UK mobile internet as you want for 3 months“.

The packages are also very similar, aside from the extra content offers, to EE’s existing service at the same price. Meanwhile Three UK, which will launch its 4G at 800MHz service before the end of this year, currently offers “All-you-can-eat data” via their 3G network from £12.90 per month and they expect to offer 4G “at no extra cost“.

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By Mark Jackson
Mark is a professional technology writer, IT consultant and computer engineer from Dorset (England), he also founded ISPreview in 1999 and enjoys analysing the latest telecoms and broadband developments. Find me on Twitter, , Facebook and Linkedin.
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