The four mobile networks in the UK are all finally launching their 4G networks, with details of tariffs and coverage plans. It's been a long time coming, but the 4G roll-out is far removed from the fanfare of 3G, and the massive investments made.

Each network has had a number of technical issues to overcome but launching is their priority, and the revenue generation linked with it.

Everything Everywhere (EE) was first, in October 2012, and covers around 105 towns and cities at the moment. They were able to launch quickly using their existing frequencies, whereas the others had to buy new areas of the spectrum.

O2 and Vodafone launched today in parts of London, and O2 also offers it in Leeds and Bradford from today. Three will activate the service in December in London, Birmingham and Manchester.

All networks are promising significant coverage in 2014! The networks are all offering their own incentives for sign up, but here is a SIM only 12 month contract from each network:

  • O2: £26 for 1GB data per month, unlimited public WiFi
  • Vodafone: £26 for 2GB, 750MB public Wifi per month
  • EE: £21 for 500MB Data
  • Three: No specific 4G package, it will be included in all their offerings.

4G is a great leap forward however there are a number of issues:

  • A faster mobile network will encourage you to do more. The tiny data allowance will be consumed very quickly. The costs when you exceed your monthly allowance are huge.
  • Very few phones are currently compatible with 4G in the UK. There will be a lot of disappointed iPhone 5 users, depending on the network they are on.
  • Coverage is appalling. They are all aiming for 98% coverage of the UK population in the coming two years. It was the same claim for 3G and the service is still sporadic out with cities.
  • Would you seriously pay for a 4G service that only works in a few cities? If you reside on the outskirts or further afield you will have no 4G access but still be paying a premium.

Of course coverage will improve and costs will reduce, but for now the 4G offering is far more restrictive that you may at first realise.

Personally, I'm not sold on 4G. Yes, it is much faster, but almost everywhere I go has Wifi so why would I use a mobile data network? The obvious answer is travelling, however poor coverage prevents this for now.

Yesterday we reported that O2 will by the only UK provider of the Nexus 7 4G tablet.

What are your thoughts?

Further reading: Current 4G coverage of active cities in the UK

site by DAJ