EE to launch 4G in 16 cities by Christmas

The newly renamed EE will bring a 4G network to 40% of the British population by Christmas, the company claimed today.

EE – formerly Everything Everywhere – will switch on test 4G networks in four cities today: London, Cardiff, Birmingham and Bristol. A dozen others will be added by Christmas – see the full list at the foot of the page – in what will be the UK’s first taste of LTE technology. Coverage will expand to 70% of the population by the end of 2013, and 98% by the end of 2014.

The CEO of EE, Olaf Swantee, said the network was being built for the “gigabit generation”, adding that the “digital backbone will become as important as the roads, railways and airports”. He was joined on stage by London Mayor, Boris Johnson, who admitted that the 4G network had “implications I barely understand”, but was assured that “information will now spout at unbelievable, unstoppable rates from these devices”.

Information on those devices was desperately sparse, however. Swantee said the network would offer 4G handsets from Huawei, Samsung and Nokia, the latter offering the Lumia 920 that was launched in New York last week. Swantee also dropped a heavy hint that EE would offer the iPhone 5, which is due to be launched tomorrow.

EE also failed to deliver any firm details on the speed of the network, claiming merely that it will deliver five times the throughput of 3G technology. A hands-on demonstration with a 4G handset at the London venue showed download speeds of up to 35Mbits/sec, but those figures have to be taken with a pinch of salt on an uncontended test network.

Swantee confirmed that the T-Mobile and Orange brands will continue to exist as separate entities, but they will now only refer to 3G services. All 4G customers will be migrated to EE.

EE’s early launch of 4G services only got the final go-ahead after “peace talks” between the outgoing culture secretary, Jeremy Hunt, and the heads of Britain’s five mobile networks. Rivals such as Vodafone had threatened to launch a legal battle against Ofcom’s decision to allow EE to use its existing spectrum for 4G services, ahead of a full spectrum auction next year. However, the Financial Times reports that EE, Vodafone, Three and O2 have signed a stand-still agreement that will prevent any legal action for a month.

The 16 cities due to receive 4G before Christmas are:


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