O2 is set to become the UK's second 4G operator after announcing that it will launch its LTE network in three cities by the end of the month with more to come.
O2's 4G network operates in the 800MHz spectrum and will launch on 29 August in London, Leeds and Bradford with tarriffs starting at £26 a month.
O2 will be the first operator to go up against the UK’s sole nationwide 4G network, EE, which in June had half a million subscribers and covers about 55 percent of the population.
EE's entry level SIM-only price is £21 per month for 500MB of data, while the more realistic 1GB deal on EE costs £26 per month. O2 hasn't revealed what's included in its £26 plan yet and notably missing from its lineup of supported 4G devices is Apple's iPhone 5, which uses the 1800MHz spectrum band, rather than O2's 800MHz. The list of supported phones are here.
In February O2 paid £550m to secure 2x10MHz of 880MHz spectrum, the band that is considered best for delivering wider coverage, which came with an obligation to provide 4G coverage to 98 percent of the population by 2017. The spectrum was released in May and fully cleared by regulator Ofcom this week.
O2 plans to switch on 4G in 13 cities by the end of the year, including Birmingham, Newcastle, Glasgow, Liverpool, Nottingham, Leicester, Coventry, Sheffield, Manchester and Edinburgh.
Three, BT subsidiary Niche Spectrum Ventures and Vodafone also secured spectrum in the UK's 4G spectrum auctions earlier this year, which raised £2.3bn.
Vodafone and Three plan on launching 4G networks this year, while BT has signed a 10 year deal with O2 to support its 4G network once went live.