O2 to launch 4G
O2 will join rival EE in offering a super-fast 4G service by the end of August, the company announced.
The firm will switch on its 4G offering on 29 August, initially to five million people in three cities: London, Leeds and Bradford.
O2's 4G service will be rolled out to an additional ten cities by the end of 2013. These are: Birmingham; Newcastle; Glasgow; Liverpool; Nottingham; Leicester; Coventry; Sheffield; Manchester; and Edinburgh
O2 is also bundling in other perks for 4G customers, including 12 months' free music content for those who buy direct from O2.
It will be a direct challenge to EE, which launched 4G in the UK in October 2012. 4G mobile data services allow consumers to download data up to five times faster than on the 3G network.
This makes it far easier to download and stream music and videos easily while on the move - a standard definition movie should take just 10-15 minutes to download.
Ronan Dunne, CEO of Telefónica UK (O2), said: "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 service will cost both new and existing customers a minimum of £26 a month, with further pricing details to be released imminently. EE charges from £26 a month for a two-year 4G contract or from £21 a month for a Sim-only plan.
Ernest Doku, telecoms expert at uSwitch.com, says: "For nine months the UK's 4G market has been a one-horse race, but now EE has a thoroughbred breathing down its neck. However, until O2 announces full pricing information it remains to be seen just how hard-pressed EE will be.
"O2 is playing catch up when it comes to availability - launching to just three cities initially. And it's likely there will be other teething problems: its 4G network won't be available on the biggest phone of last month - the iPhone 5 - and its lowest-priced plan seems unlikely to be as cheap as EE's."
As more players enter the market, it is hoped that the general cost of 4G mobile will fall. uSwitch research shows that 38% of Brits think it is too expensive and 69% are concerned their mobile bills will rocket if they get 4G.