The carriers are likely to end up paying millions more each year for their 900MHz and 1800MHz spectrum, reflecting the fact that this spectrum can now be reused for 3G and 4G, not just voice and SMS.
Three carriers now offer super-fast mobile broadband services in the UK, although EE has had a valuable headstart on its rollout. Underdog Three will join the party in December — and unlike the others, it won’t charge a premium for 4G.
The UK’s biggest mobile carriers have now all detailed their 4G offerings, and at the low-end price point Vodafone offers a 2GB cap while EE and O2 offer 1GB. However, the disruptive fourth player is still to show its hand.
EE has enjoyed a de facto monopoly on 4G in the UK since last year, but Vodafone looks set to offer higher data caps and attractive extras when it joins the party later this month.
O2’s 4G services will go live in London, Leeds and Bradford on 29 August, with 10 more cities to follow this year. With EE’s 4G already up and running, that just leaves Vodafone and Three to firm up their dates.
It appears that LTE subscriber numbers at EE — a carrier that still has a monopoly on 4G in the UK — are increasing at an accelerating pace. But rivals are set to launch their 4G offerings soon.
The UK’s second-largest mobile carrier, O2, has become the latest to sign a deal with Virgin Media in order to give its customers free internet access on the London Underground.
EE, Vodafone, Three, O2 and BT have all won spectrum in the auction, which the regulator Ofcom says will lead to full 4G coverage by the end of 2017.
EE has been able to roll out 4G earlier than its rivals because it’s been allowed to reuse its 2G and 3G spectrum for LTE. Now its rivals look set to get the same opportunity.
You know what’s cool? $1.1bn. Especially when, like the Irish government, you were only expecting a fifth of that. And, with carriers finally free to roll out 4G, that won’t be the only boost to the Irish economy.