O2 switches on the service in London, Leeds and Bradford, with Vodafone beginning just in London; both will roll out to the same 13 cities before the end of the year
O2 and Vodafone have today launched their 4G networks in the UK. It comes 10 months after EE launched its own 4G service last October.
The former has begun roll-out in London, Leeds and Bradford, reaching up to five million people. A further 10 cities will follow before the end of the year – Birmingham, Newcastle, Glasgow, Liverpool, Nottingham, Leicester, Coventry, Sheffield, Manchester and Edinburgh. The operator is planning to make 4G available to an additional two million people per month.
O2 UK CEO Ronan Dunne said: “Today marks the first step in our ambitious plan to bring 4G services to millions more people across the UK. The possibilities of 4G – be it for consumers or businesses – have not yet been realised. For many, 4G mobile services represent faster download speeds and acceptable video streaming on the train. We all need to start thinking bigger.
“For consumers, the arrival of mass-market 4G marks the beginning of an exciting new era, bringing them closer to the things they are passionate about. For businesses, 4G represents the new infrastructure vital to powering the products and services they need to help turn our faltering recovery into a steady one. The mass-market arrival of 4G marks a new generation for the digital age and we’re excited to be celebrating the occasion today with our customers.”
Vodafone’s 4G network has only gone live in London so far, but will launch in the same additional 12 cities as O2 before the end of the year.
Both operators are aiming for 98 per cent UK population coverage with their 4G network by the end of 2015 – two years ahead of guidelines set out by telecoms regulator Ofcom.
O2’s tariffs come with unlimited minutes, texts, with data bundles ranging from between 1GB and 8GB. SIM-only packages start at £26 a month for 1GB of data and go up to £36 a month for 5GB of data. Additional data bolt-ons are available at £6 for 500MB and £10 for 1GB.
Airtime plans on O2 Refresh, the tariff designed to enable customers to upgrade their device to a newer model at any time during a 24 month contract, start from £22 a month for 1GB of data and go up to £37 a month for 8GB of data. The monthly device payment ranges from £10 to £25, meaning the cheapest plan with a 4G-ready device starts at £32 a month.
Prepay and mobile broadband 4G tariffs will launch before the end of the year, with more details being released in due course.
Until October 31, O2 is giving customers 5GB of data from £27 a month (3GB as standard) and 8GB from £32 a month (5GB as standard) for the duration of the contract.
Existing customers with a 4G device can transfer to a 4G tariff without signing a new contract. For those without a 4G phone, O2 has launched its ’4G Phone Promise’ and ‘Speed to 4G’ incentives, where it will pay 25 per cent towards customers’ remaining contracts. Customers can also trade-in their old device through O2 Recycle and receive up to £300 to help pay off the remainder of their existing contract, or put it towards their next 4G device.
Small business users can access 4G through SIM-only deals from £21.67 a month for 1GB of data on a 12 month contract. As with its consumer contracts, O2 has made additional data available on some of its small business SIM-only 4G tariffs – 5GB for £25.84 a month (3GB as standard) and 8GB for £30 a month (5GB as standard).
O2′s On & On contract tariff for these customers starts at £26.67 for 1GB of data on a 24 nth contract and will offer 5GB for £30.84 (3GB as standard) and 8GB for £35 a month (5GB as standard) until October 31.
Mobile broadband, tablets and data-only tariffs are available from £14.17 a month, while O2′s Pop Up Office (mobile Wi-Fi) starts at the same price, and will be available from mid-September.
Until October 31, O2 adding an additional 5GB of data into these tariffs, offering 8GB for £20.83 a month (5GB as standard). O2 Lease will also be extended to include $G devices, which the operator said will allow small business customers to minimise the upfront cost of their device on a 12 month contract.
Vodafone’s tariffs also start at £26 a month, with the 12 month SIM-only deal providing unlimited minutes, texts and 2GB of data. Paying £31 a month will provide customers with 4GB of data, while 8GB will be provided for those paying £36 a month.
Deals on 24-month contracts with a 4G-ready device start at £34 a month. There are three plans, with the other two priced at £39 and £44, that come with the same allowances as the SIM-only deals. There are also Wi-Fi allowances from 500MB to 3GB for each plan.Vodafone will offer the Samsung Galaxy S4 free from £34 a month with 2GB of data and six months of premium content.
There are also three plans on 12-month contracts that come with the same allowances, starting at £52 a month. These each come with 1GB of free Wi-Fi. All will come with Vodafone Data Test Drive, which provides unlimited data for the first three months.
Exclusive content and services
O2 customers will have access to O2 4G Tracks. This is free for the first 12 months and features the Official UK Top 40 Singles Chart and a collection of playlists and videos handpicked by artists. The operator has added a music video service, which streams the most popular music videos direct to devices.
Customers will have access to free Priority Sports videos, including weekly content from sportspeople offering training advice, fitness and nutrition tips, interviews and music playlists to exercise to. In addition, it will offer behind the scenes footage from teams, events and venues including O2′s England Rugby sponsorship, Twickenham Stadium and NBA Live at The O2.
As a result of an exclusive partnership with Gameloft, customers will be able to play Asphalt 8: Airborne, Modern Combat 4: Zero Hour and Zombiewood. Playing these games will not erode a customer’s data allowance.
The operator has also introduced a 90 day ‘Happiness Guarantee’, whereby if a customer decides they don’t prefer 4G, they will be transferred back to an equivalent 3G tariff with a bill credit of up to £15.
Vodafone customers signing up to a 4G tariff can either choose to have either Sky Sports Mobile TV or Spotify Premium included for the first six months. They are then be charged £4.99 a month for Sky Sports Mobile TV or £9.99 a month for Spotify Premium.
The 4G-ready price plans were made available in-store, online and by phone from August 12, in time for customers to view the start of the new Premier League football season five days later.
All customers will also benefit from ’5 Star Care, providing them with services such as the ability to back up the vital contents of their phone, wipe it if it’s lost and a replacement handset if their own is being repaired.