O2 UK lays its 4G cards on the table, but Vodafone’s offering still looks like the best deal

O2, Telefonica(s tef)’s UK mobile operator, has revealed more details of its upcoming 4G packages – and, like competitors EE and Vodafone(s vod), it’s going to be bundling sports and entertainment content in an effort to woo LTE first-timers.
O2 had previously said its 4G plans would start at £26 ($40) a month when they launch on 29 August, but they hadn’t said what users would get for that cash. Now we know: that £26 starter tariff will get you 1GB of data a month, and the tariffs go up to £36 a month for 5GB.
That actually puts O2 on a par with EE (the only carrier offering 4G at the moment), which also provides 1GB for £26, though its cheaper £21-per-month deal maxes out at a measly 500MB. Vodafone offers a better deal than either EE or O2 — £26 a month for 2GB.
O2 does also offer a reasonably extensive network of 9,000 Wi-Fi hotspots around the UK, but those aren’t actually limited to O2 customers, so that’s not much of a deciding factor for UK consumers.
All the carriers that have thus far announced their 4G deals (only Three remains) are bundling free streaming music. EE has Deezer, Vodafone has Spotify Premium and O2 has “O2 Tracks”, which looks to be more limited than Deezer and Spotify Premium – it includes the top 40 hits and “a unique collection of playlists and videos, handpicked by artists.” That said, O2 Tracks also comes with music videos, which is a good way to show off 4G’s capabilities.
Vodafone is offering free Sky Sports TV, but again O2 seems to be rivalling this with a more curated experience, namely sports videos including “weekly content from sporting heroes offering training advice, fitness and nutrition tips, interviews and top music playlists to work out to.”
I’m with uSwitch.com mobile expert Ernest Doku on this one. In a statement on Wednesday, he opined that:

“While Vodafone has bought big names like Sky Sports and Spotify to the 4G table, O2’s own-brand online offerings run the risk of seeming like a budget alternative to consumers. Without price tags for these services to easily justify the premium, O2 will need to prove that its own offerings are just as valuable as Vodafone’s tie-ins.”

So, in short, the major UK carriers have all settled around more-or-less the same price point, with Vodafone edging past its rivals in the good-deal stakes. However, Three still hasn’t put its cards on the table – and Three exists to be a disruptor-slash-gadfly, so perhaps we can expect a shake-up from that direction.