4G Mobile Goes Live On Vodafone And O2
Mobile networks Vodafone and 02 have flicked the switch on faster 4G data services.
O2's service will go live in London, Leeds and Bradford, reaching up to five million people initially, while Vodafone's offering will roll out in parts of the capital.
Both networks plan to have coverage in 13 cities by the end of the year - London, Birmingham, Bradford, Coventry, Edinburgh, Glasgow, Leeds, Leicester, Liverpool, Manchester, Newcastle, Nottingham and Sheffield.
They plan to eventually offer 4G to 98% of the UK.
Rival network EE stole a march on its rivals by launching its own service in October last year and already serves 100 towns and cities.
It had signed up 687,000 4G customers by the end of June.
4G networks can provide data to smartphones around five to six times faster than 3G connections, according to the networks, speeding up internet browsing and making it ideal for downloading and streaming high quality video and music.
Vodafone spent £802m in Ofcom's 4G auction in February, while O2 spent £550m to buy a portion of the lowest frequency spectrum.
O2 and Vodafone are trying to tempt customers by including music and sports content in their 4G packages.
However, the faster services currently cost more than existing 3G.
The relatively small data allowance of some 4G packages can also easily be used up when downloading video for example.
Many customers also appear unconvinced of the benefits.
Despite being aware of the new services, recent Ofcom research found 70% of phone users did not plan to sign up to 4G at the end of their contract.
However, Vodafone's UK boss, Guy Laurence, said he now expected 4G to take-off because people increasingly want to access video and data-hungry applications on the move.
He told Sky News: "I think adoption will be far faster than 3G, which was 10 years ago, because people didn't really understand how to use it. "
The final major UK network, Three, is launching its own 4G offering in December, starting with coverage in London, Birmingham and Manchester.
It has said it will not charge extra for the faster service.