What is 4G?
4G is the fourth generation of mobile network technology and will provide the fastest mobile internet speeds yet.
4G offers much faster internet speeds than 3G, which means a huge step forward in the speed that web pages load, email or Apps download and videos stream.
However, there is some analysis that suggests the version of 4G implemented by EE is barely any faster at downloading data than the fastest versions of 3G (HSPA).
The main difference in performance, that is often ignored, between 4G-LTE and 3G- HSPA comes in the uplink direction – the sending of files from your mobile device rather than the download. LTE is significantly quicker for sending large files such as posting photos on Facebook or Flickr, uploading videos to You Tube and sending large email attachments.
Do I need 4G?
Given the main difference between 4G and 3G is the faster download and upload speeds you can achieve, the main driver for 4G will be that you are someone who uses a lot of web services that require fast data speeds. If you mainly make calls and texts, browse the internet, use Facebook and download emails you probably won’t see much benefit from splashing the extra cash on 4G mobile data service and a 4G mobile phone.
If you regularly need, or want, to download and upload large files via your mobile (or do so for your laptop via your phone), stream music and movies and so on you may get a benefit from 4G. For instance, a professional photographer who wants to upload large high resolution images whilst out and about would find 4G really useful.
However, one huge consideration and potential flaw in the current 4G mobile tariffs is that most of them have relatively small data allowances. The fast speeds of 4G downloads encourage you to download larger files or stream media that will use up your data allowance much quicker. As soon as you go ‘out of bundle’ the costs can rocket for every extra MB of data you download.
Another huge factor is the initial lack of 4G coverage – see below. If you don’t live, work and play in an area with strong 4G mobile coverage you’ll be wasting your money. If you live in the countryside forget 4G for a year or two.
When will 4G be available in the UK?
4G launched in October 2012 is available now in the UK but only with one operator – EE.
How widespread is 4G coverage?
4G has launched in 11 major cities in the UK initially, with 16 being covered by the end of the year. 4G mobile coverage will then be rolled out across the rest of the UK over the following months.
On which networks is 4G available?
For the time being, the only network to have a licence to run 4G is Everything Everywhere, the company behind Orange and T Mobile. Everything Everywhere is launching a new brand and network, EE, which encompasses the Orange, T-Mobile and Everything Everywhere brands. 4G will therefore only be available to Orange and T Mobile customers initially, but other networks will start launching their own 4G networks in 2013.
Will I need to buy a new handset in order to use it?
Yes, unless you already own an iPhone 5. There are many other 4G compatible handsets that have been launched by EE if you don’t fancy an iPhone. Some of the best include the Samsung Galaxy S III LTE, the HTC One X LTE, and the Nokia Lumia 900.
Is 4G only available for phones?
No. You’ll also be able to hook up other devices (such as your existing phone, tablet or laptop) to 4G via mobile Wi-Fi and mobile broadband.
How much will it cost to upgrade to 4G?
Prices for a 4G EE contract will start from £36 per month for 500MB of data. To keep things as simple as possible, all contracts will include unlimited calls and SMS messages and have a 24 month duration. All you have to do is choose how much mobile data you want, and the price of your tariff is dependent on that. EE’s price plans are as follows:
£36 for 500MB a month
£41 for 1GB a month
£46 for 3GB a month
£51 for 5GB a month
£56 for 8GB a month
Will I be able to use 4G on SIM only or Pay As You Go?
SIM Only deals are now available on EE and they will be £15 per month cheaper than contract deals. You will, of course, have to pay full price for a 4G handset so weigh the costs up very carefully.
Will I have to take out a new contract to switch to 4G?
If you already have an iPhone 5 on Orange or T Mobile on a 3G contract, you won’t have to change your contract, you’ll just have to upgrade to the size of data package that suits you best. All you’ll need to do is change your SIM to make your handset compatible.
How soon will I be able to switch to 4G EE?
Assuming you’re out of contract or already on Orange or T-Mobile you can move over to 4G now. You just need to do the following:
- Ensure that 4G is available in your area.
- Obtain a 4G compatible handset.
- Arrange a 4G contract with EE