4G: The key questions on the new mobile network answered

Mobile phone users in Britain were able to use 4G for the first time today. Picture: PA
Mobile phone users in Britain were able to use 4G for the first time today. Picture: PA
Share this article
Have your say

Mobile phone users will be able to access much faster internet speeds while out and about from today as 4G was launched in ten British cities, including Edinburgh and Glasgow. We answer some of the most frequently asked questions about the new technology standards.

What is it?

Simple really. 4G is the fourth generation of mobile phone communications standards, succeeding the current 3G service, which is now almost a decade old. But while the terminology is straightforward, the definition is far from clear. 4G is intended to be faster, but that’s not always the case, and there are myriad technologies calling themselves 4G. One rule of thumb is that if the internet speed is always faster on the same carrier then it constitutes a new generation.

Where is it available?

The 4G network launched in ten cities in the UK today (30 October), including Edinburgh and Glasgow. The other launch cities are London, Bristol, Birmingham, Cardiff, Leeds, Sheffield, Liverpool and Manchester. By the end of the year 4G will also be available in Belfast, Derby, Hull, Newcastle, Nottingham and Southampton.

An introduction to 4G

Which carriers are providing 4G?

So far only EE, formerly known as Everything Everywhere, is providing 4G products and services. EE is the firm behind T-Mobile and Orange and its conjoined mobile network is the largest in the UK, with 28 million customers. Rival operators such as Vodafone, Three and O2 will be able to launch 4G services and products from spring 2013.

How much will it cost?

The EE deals on the table range from £36 a month for 500mb of data downloads to £56 a month for 8gb of data. There are currently no plans for unlimited data downloads.

How fast is it - really?

Speeds vary, and the network is likely to slow down as more customers sign up and it becomes more congested, but in theory 4G can offer download speeds of up to 300mbps and upload speeds of around 75mbps. EE says that speeds on average will be around five times faster than 3G speeds today.

What handsets will work with 4G?

To date, the handsets in the UK which are 4G-ready are: Apple iPhone 5, HTC One XL, Huawei Ascend P1 LTE, Nokia Lumia 820/920, Samsung Galaxy Note 2 LTE and the Samsung Galaxy SIII (although not SIII models which have been previously sold in the UK). Note that the “4G-ready” Apple iPad (aka iPad 3) will not work on EE’s network because it uses a 2100MHz chipset.