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Three to offer 4G LTE to customers at no extra cost

For all you Three customers out there who hate Mondays, your network might just be able to brighten up the start of your week as it’s announcing that its 4G services will be made available at no extra cost to the consumer.

Three; a network which markets itself towards consumers looking to make the most out of mobile data has today issued a press release stating that their continuing work on strengthening their existing DC-HSDPA network (which spans some 55% of the UK population), will now be bolstered by the introduction of 4G network speeds once their slice of the 1800Mhz band comes into play later this year.

3 Ultrafast

Consumers who want in on some super fast mobile browsing and whatnot won’t have to change their contract or change their SIM, just as long as they’re already sporting an LTE friendly handset like the Nokia Lumia 820. What’s most exciting is that this will be the first direct competition that EE, who currently have a monopoly on the UK’s 4G, will face.

Three states, ’LTE, otherwise known as 4G, will be added to Three’s network later this year. Unlike some other UK mobile operators, it will be available across all existing and new price plans without customers needing to pay a premium fee to ‘upgrade’.

Whilst the network’s CEO – Dave Dyson said, “As we add the next wave of technology to our Ultrafast network, we’ve listened to our customers and thought long and hard about the right way to do it. We don’t want to limit Ultrafast services to a select few based on a premium price and we’ve decided our customers will get this service as standard.

Xperia Z Three

Still no word on when 4G will go live at Three, but when it does, we wouldn’t be surprised to see a significant rise is uptake of plans on their network. The same impressive data speeds as EE without the extra cost? It’s hard to argue with that.

February 4th, 2013

Has 4G rolled out to your city and are you using it? Let us know below or via Facebook and Twitter.

What is 4G?

In the UK we use 2G to make voice calls and send text messages, 3G is used for data purposes, such as surfing the internet or checking Facebook. 4G (or LTE, which means Long Term Evolution), will dramatically improve download speeds over data.

EE states that 4G is 5-7 times faster than 3G (up to 160Mbps in fact) and that by the end of the decade we’ll be able to download an album in 60 seconds, or a full movie in 10 minutes. Find out more about data speeds here.

4G is currently available in 40 countries in the world, including the US. So far it’s only been trialed in selected parts of the UK including Cumbria.

Confusingly 4G in the US and 4G in the UK use different spectrums. In the US 700/800 and 1799/1900 MHz bands are used, in the UK and 800, 2600 and 1800 MHz (which EE has been awarded) are used. The iPad 3 was compatible with 4G bands in the US, but not in the UK, hence why Apple had had to change the name from WiFi+4G.  However the 4th generation iPad 4th is compatible with the 1800MHz frequency, so it will be compatible with EE and later Three’s 4G network. (Updated)

When and where will 4G be available?

The licence Ofcom has granted Everything Everywhere has come into force and the new 4G network will be called EE.

It will initially launch in London, Bristol, Cardiff and Birmingham, before rolling out to 12 more cities and a third of the population before Christmas, the cities are Belfast, Derby, Glasgow, Hull, Leeds, Liverpool, Manchester, Newcastle, Nottingham, Sheffield and Southampton. In 2013 70 per cent of the population will have access to 4G and by 2014, 98 per cent will be covered.

The two brands which are encompassed by EE will continue as before, but by the end of 2012 all customers will be on the new network, with the word ‘EE’ (instead of Orange and T-Mobile) appearing on mobile screens.

Will 4G be available on other networks?

Ofcom awarded Everything Everywhere the licence to use the 1800MHz spectrum for 4G, effectively granting EE a monopoly over 4G in the UK.

Ofcom stated: ‘Although we consider it likely that EE will enjoy a competitive advantage during the period before other operators are able to launch their own LTE services, we consider on the evidence available that any such advantage is unlikely to result in an enduring advantage which distorts competition to the detriment of consumers.’

Because EE was forced to sell has a monopoly it has to sell 20 per cent off this spectrum, which Three bought. Dave Dyson, CEO of Three UK comments: “Acquiring this spectrum will more than double the capacity available to customers on our network. We have seen a huge growth in data consumption with average mobile handset customer usage now more than 1.1GB per month. Three has led the market in the significant growth of mobile data consumption and the shift to consumer use of smartphones to access the internet. New spectrum, supported by further committed technology spend, is a clear signal that we are committed to maintain our lead as the network built for the mobile internet.”

When will the auction for the remaining 4G spectrum take place?

Ofcom has announced that bidding for the UK’s remaining 4G spectrums is now under way, with seven companies vying bidding for the remaining 800MHz and 2.6GHz 4G frequency bands, which make up three quarters of the mobile spectrum and will nearly double the airwaves available for mobile broadband.

The bidders are existing UK networks: O2 (Telefnica UK Limited), Vodafone, Three (Hutchison 3G UK Limited) and EE, along with: Hong Kong Telecom (UK) Company Limited, MLL Telecom Ltd and Niche Spectrum Ventures Limited (a subsidiary of BT Group plc),

There are 22 lots of spectrum in the auction, across the 800MHz band and 2.6GHz bands, Ofcom listing a reserve price of £1.3 billion for the combined value of both frequencies.

The bidding is expected to last several weeks after which Ofcom will reveal the winners. Once fees have been paid 4G networks using the frequeny bands are expected to go live late spring/early summer.

What phone do I need to use to be able to get 4G?

In order to be able to access 4G, your phone needs to have a compatible antenna and 4G capability.

Many phones use the 1800MHz for voice calls and texts (GSM/EDGE), but that doesn’t mean you’ll be able to access 4G. In order to be able to access 4G, your phone needs to have an compatible antenna and 4G compatibility.

The question is whether 4G phones will be compatible with all UK 4G spectrums. If you get a phone from Everything Everywhere compatible with 4G on the 1800MHz frequency, will that phone be incompatible with 4G on 800MHz or 2600MHz spectrums when they are auctioned later – presumably to O2 and Vodafone? We would hope that mobile phone developers make them cross compatible.

The first six phones have been confirmed as the Nokia Lumia 820, Nokia Lumia 920, Samsung Galaxy S3 LTE, HTC One XL, Apple iPhone 5 and Huawei Ascend P1 LTE.

Will the iPhone 5 support 4G on all networks?

A closer look at the specs reveals that the iPhone 5 will not be compatible with future 4G services from O2 and Vodafone.

In the UK EE’s 4G spectrum runs on the 1800MHz bands, next year the 800MHz and 2600MHz bands will be put up for auction and we’re expecting O2 and Vodafone to bid for them. According to Apple’s website the iPhone 5 destined for the UK supports 4G at 2100MHz, 1800Mhz and 850MHz.

So the only network to initially support the iPhone 5 will be EE which uses the 1800MHz frequency band. Being the only network to offer ultrafast download speeds will certainly give EE an advantage in early sales, however, it’s not a total monopoly – Three recently bought 20% of EE’s 4G network – but we’re expecting it to be 2012 before the network launches a 4G service.

The short answer is if you want to use 4G on the new iPhone, you need to buy it from EE.

How much will 4G cost?

Ahead of their October 30th launch, the UK’s first 4G mobile network, EE have announced initial tariff pricing for their range of new 4G handsets. All mobile plans will include unlimited calls and texts which users will be able to take abroad for an extra £5 a month on top of their standard monthly cost, this would cover Europe and a few other select countries too.

Of course the key element with 4G is data usage and EE is offering a range of plans from £36 to £56 a month.

EE customers can make VoIP calls, tether and access BT Openzone WiFi hotspots as part of their standard contracts too.

We’ll have to wait a fair while longer to discover what the competition are cooking up for their 4G offerings as for now, EE maintain the monopoly over the prospective 4G consumers.


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