UK to start getting faster 4G within weeks as EE and Vodafone prepare commercial LTE-A launches

The U.K. carriers EE and Vodafone will start offering very high-speed mobile broadband, based on LTE-Advanced (LTE-A) technology, in selected locations within weeks.

LTE-A uses carrier aggregation to provide a theoretical maximum (for now) of 300Mbps, taking advantage of spectrum in both the 1800Mhz and 2.6GHz bands in EE’s case, and the 800MHz and 2.6GHz bands in Vodafone’s case (which promises better indoor coverage.)

The current theoretical maximum for EE’s 1800MHz-only 4G service is roughly 150Mbps. Of course, customers will not achieve the theoretical maximum because they share capacity, but the boost should be huge for anyone who can take advantage of it.

EE’s LTE-A upgrade is currently being trialled in London’s Tech City hub, but that pilot will end this month. “There will be coverage across central London and a live service in October,” an EE spokesperson told me on Thursday. Until now, the carrier has been promising a U.K. LTE-A commercial rollout next year (and it’s planning a 400Mbps upgrade too.)

To take full advantage of this boost, though, customers will need to have handsets that support Category 6 LTE, such as the Samsung Galaxy S5, Note 4 or Alpha, or possibly the new Google Nexus 6.

Vodafone also said this week that it will offer LTE-A services in London, Birmingham and Manchester within a few weeks, but it reportedly held back from making specific performance claims.

Both Vodafone and Telefonica’s Movistar brand recently started offering 300Mbps LTE-A services in Spain, and various carriers have also begun commercial LTE-A rollouts in Hong Kong, Singapore, Switzerland, Estonia, Romania, the U.S. and elsewhere.