EE hits one million 4G subscribers as rivals make early LTE efforts

EE hits one million customers four months earlier than expected, but is 4G still searching for a killer app?

EE has signed up one million customers to its 4G network, four months ahead of its own self-imposed target.

Because it could reuse a chunk of mobile spectrum it already owned, EE was able to launch a 4G network well ahead of its rivals, who had to wait for the UK's telecom regulator, Ofcom, to auction off additional 4G-comptaible spectrum before they could roll out their own LTE networks.

And EE has been trying to make as much of its headstart as possible. It launched its 4G service in October 2012 and it now covers 100 towns and cities across the UK. In June, the operator said it had 500,000 customers signed up, and said it was aiming for one million customers by the end of the year .

In August, EE's 4G network coverage reached 60 percent of the UK population, with plans to cover 98 percent of the population by the end of 2014.

In contrast, Vodafone and O2 switched on their 4G networks last last month.

Vodafone's network only covered London at launch but should cover the major cities of Birmingham, Coventry, Leicester, Nottingham, and Sheffield by the end of September. Bradford, Edinburgh, Glasgow, Leeds, Liverpool, Manchester, and Newcastle are expected to have 4G coverage by the end of the year. O2, meanwhile, kicked off its 4G network in London, Leeds, and Bradford.

Mobile operator Three, now the only major UK carrier without 4G, said it will launch its LTE network in December starting with London, Birmingham, and Manchester and won't charge customers any more than existing 3G subscriptions for LTE packages.

But while EE's one million 4G customers is way ahead of its rivals LTE efforts, 4G remains a very small part of its overall customer base — 27 million customers in the UK.

And 4G remains something of a minority interest, as for many customers the idea of a faster network is not a compelling reason to upgrade.

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