Vodafone and O2 have launched their rival 4G networks in London today, joining EE in offering LTE services and giving the city's residents three high-speed mobile networks to choose from.
Vodafone is only switching on its 4G network in London today, but expects to cover 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.
Vodafone claims 20,000 customers have signed up to the 4G network since it began taking pre-orders in the the beginning of August, and it's leading its charge into 4G with a 12-month SIM-only tariff with 2GB of mobile data, priced at £26 a month.
O2 — which is kicking off its 4G network in London, Leeds, and Bradford — has filled in the blanks on its price plans (it had previously only announced a starting price of £26 per month.) For that price, O2 is offering a SIM-only (for those with a 4G a phone already) 12-month plan with unlimited voice minutes and texts, and a 1GB monthly data allowance.
It's also offering short term discounts on higher data allowance plans. Customers that sign up on a one-year SIM-only contract before 31 October can get a 5GB monthly data allowance for the duration of the contract for £31 a month, while an 8GB allowance costs £36. After the cut-off date, these prices will get 3GB and 5GB per month, respectively.
Similar launch discounts come with the plans that include a 4G phone. Unlimited calls and texts with a 1GB data monthly allowance costs £22, a 5GB package costs £27, while the 8GB offer costs £32. Data allowances on these second two packages fall back to 3GB and 5GB after 31 October.
By contrast, Vodafone's higher data SIM-only 30-day plans start at £20 for 4GB of data or £30 for 10GB.
O2 says that 4G will be available on Pay & Go and mobile broadband by the end of the year. While Vodafone has bundled some 4G contracts with content from Sky and Spotify, O2 is offering its own O2 Tracks Official Top 40 Hits streaming service for free for 12 months if customers sign up directly.
Not to be left out, EE — the first UK network to launch LTE — also announced today that its 4G network has reached 105 towns and cities (up from 95 in July), covering 60 percent of the population since the network went live in October last year. This month it expects to reach Ashford, Bicester, Colchester, Guildford, Milton Keynes, Redhill, Sevenoaks, Tunbridge Wells, and Woking.
EE's 12 month SIM-only plan costs £26 per month for a 1GB allowance.
EE is also upgrading its network to deliver higher speeds in some areas — an average of between 24Mbps and 30Mbps. The higher speed service is already available in 20 towns and cities in the UK, and will be activated today for Sunderland, Sutton Coldfield, Walsall, West Bromwich, and Wolverhampton.