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Looks like the honeymoon period for EE and LTE in the UK is over. This morning, Telefonica’s O2 announced that it would turn on its LTE network on August 29, becoming the second operator to offer 4G in the country. Initial cities will be London, Leeds and Bradford, with 10 more cities to come by the end of the year. The first move at the end of this month will cover 5 million people.

The end of the honeymoon also signifies the beginning of the price wars. Initial tariffs will start at £26 per month, O2 says. In comparison, a contract-free, data-only, mobile broadband rate from EE is currently priced at £15 per month, and a voice-and-data tariff starts at £21 per month. There will likely be different allowances included in these figures — for example the voice-and-data service is SIM-only and you bring your own device. EE’s plans that include devices also start at £26 per month.

EE’s LTE network, which launched in October 2012, has a big head start. It is currently live in 95 cities and aims for 110 cities covering 60% of the population by the end of the year. In June of this year it announced 687,000 customers and is aiming for 1 million by the end of this year.

It looks like O2 made a point of acting as fast as it could; it notes that the news comes a day after Ofcom cleared the use of spectrum for 4G services. “It’s great that I am able to announce O2 4G the day after the spectrum has been cleared for use,” noted Ronan Dunne, CEO of Telefónica UK, in a statement. “Digital connectivity will be made ubiquitous by 4G and become the oxygen of modern life. It is our intention to use 4G to inspire the nation through the possibilities of technology, encouraging people to live more, do more and be more with O2.”

Back in February 2013, O2 was part of a group of operators — the five were BT, EE, O2, Three and Vodafone — who were all awarded spectrum for 4G services at a total cost of £2.3 billion, falling short of the £3.5 billion that Ofcom had anticipated it would raise from the auction and well short of the £22.5 billion raised during 3G auctions a dozen years ago.

More to come. Release below.

O2’s 4G network to switch on from 29th August
· O2 outlines plans for its 4G launch and fastest growing UK 4G network
· Network to switch on in London, Leeds and Bradford with ten additional cities to follow by
· the end of the year
· Plans to reach 98% UK population indoor with 2G, 3G and 4G
· 4G on O2 will be available to all new and existing customers on a range of tariffs from £26
· a month
· Multi award-winning act to headline at the O2 4G London Launch Gig

01 August 2013 – O2 today sets out its plans for its 4G network launch later this month, which will make it the fastest growing 4G network in the UK. The superfast 4G network will be switched on in
London, Leeds and Bradford on 29th August, reaching up to five million people from launch. O2’s ambitious rollout plan aims to make 4G available to an additional two million people per month, culminating in O2’s 2G, 3G and 4G network reaching 98% of the UK population both indoor and outdoor.

By the end of the year, O2’s 4G network will be live in 13 cities. Further detail relating to the specific switch-on dates will be announced over the coming weeks.

London | Leeds | Bradford | Birmingham | Newcastle | Glasgow | Liverpool |
Nottingham | Leicester | Coventry | Sheffield | Manchester | Edinburgh

To allow as many people as possible to experience and enjoy the benefits of 4G, O2 is launching a range of tariffs starting at £26 a monthi, which come complete with a 30 day Happiness Guaranteeii for customers who sign up direct from O2. Business customers will also be offered tariffs for tablets and mobile broadband from launch and Mobile Wifi (Pop Up Office) in the coming weeks.

4G networks will provide faster data speeds (up to 5 times faster than 3Giii) and a more seamless mobile experience, marking a new generation for the mobile industry. O2 has invested £550m to secure one of the highest proportions of the UK’s lowest frequency spectrum (800Mhz), which was released to O2 at the end of May and was fully cleared by Ofcom this week. This frequency reaches further than any other, delivering the best indoor penetration and outdoor reach.

Data usage on the O2 network has more than doubled in the last twelve months, demonstrating the ever growing appetite for mobile data services. 4G will complement O2’s current network offering, which includes 9,000 free O2 Wifi hotspots and the more recently launched TUGo, which uniquely allows O2’s consumer customers to make calls over wifi and use their tablet or laptop to make and receive calls and texts.

From today, O2 is introducing a new in-store and social media campaign encouraging everyone to be ‘#O24G’ Ready, inviting people to get their 4G-ready handset and free 4G SIM now, either in an O2 store or via an O2 business account manager.

O2 plans to go beyond what has already been offered in the 4G market and bring to life the digital experience for its customers, starting with 12 months free music content for those who buy a 4G consumer tariff direct from O2. Next generation office applications and services powered by 4G will enable O2 business customers to be more collaborative, more efficient and more productive.

Further details on O2’s 4G portfolio will be unveiled in the coming months.

All O2 customers will also be offered free 4G advice and guidance from an O2 Guru from launch, either in-store or via web chat, to explore the possibilities that 4G will unlock. Business customers can receive a consultation with their O2 business account manager to discuss how their organisation could benefit from 4G.

Ronan Dunne, CEO of Telefónica UK (O2) said: “It’s great that I am able to announce O2 4G the day after the spectrum has been cleared for use. Digital connectivity will be made ubiquitous by 4G and become the oxygen of modern life. It is our intention to use 4G to inspire the nation through the possibilities of technology, encouraging people to live more, do more and be more with O2.

“The full potential of 4G is as yet unexplored, but what we can be sure of is that it will allow for a whole new world of opportunity that people are now ready for. Over half of our customers say they use more data than two years ago and even more use wifi wherever they go, to always stay connected. Given this trend, there is no doubt that 4G will transform our lives, be it as consumers, in business or through public sector services.”

eBay recently commissioned research into the value of 4G for UK retailers. Olivier Ropars, eBay, said: “The arrival of universal 4G presents a huge opportunity for UK businesses. For retailers, it will enable delivery of a more immersive, instant and intimate shopping experience than ever before – putting the most exciting features of mobile retail into high definition. Our research shows there’s a potential £1.8bn of consumer spending up for grabs thanks to arrival of 4G. Now’s the time for businesses to take action and turn this opportunity into an exciting reality.”

To celebrate its launch, O2 is hosting a gig in London at its iconic music venue, O2 Shepherd’s Bush Empire. A headline artist, to be announced in the coming weeks, will perform an exclusive set, which will also be streamed live to screens and billboards across the city, as well as on O2’s social media channels. All tickets will be available from O2 Priority at http://www.o2priority.co.uk/tickets. O2 customers will have the opportunity to get their tickets 48 hours before general release.

Ronan Dunne concluded: “The mass-market arrival of 4G marks a new generation for the digital age and we want to celebrate the occasion with our customers. This summer, as well as inviting people to join us at our launch gig, we will also be hosting Europe’s biggest tech festival, Campus Party at The O2, which will be powered and brought to life by 4G. We plan to cement what is a truly momentous time and encourage our nation’s collective endeavours to make Britain truly digital.”

For more information on O2 4G, please visit http://www.o2.co.uk/4g

Customers can register their interest ahead of launch at http://www.o2.co.uk/4g/register

 

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