London, Manchester and the Midlands get Three 4G this year
Mobile phone operator Three has become the last to announce the launch of 4G services, saying it will offer them in four major cities by the end of 2013.
Three will start with London, Manchester, Reading and Birmingham.
A further 42 will follow by late 2014 as part of a drive to cover 90% of the UK’s population with 4G services by the end of 2015.
Comparing with other operators, EE already covers over 55% of the population, and O2 and Vodafone turned on their services in August.
Despite starting later than its larger rivals Three will not lose out, says Carrie Pawsey, senior communications analyst at the consultancy Ovum.
"In the early interim period it will make no difference. Apart from EE, the other networks won’t have a significantly larger coverage area." But, she added, "Three is likely to have larger blackspots for 4G coverage in the long term."
Three will be using a slice of the high-frequency 1800MHz band allocated for 4G which it won in an auction overseen by telecoms regulator Ofcom.
Three also bought 4G spectrum in Ofcom’s 4G auction in February at the 800MHz band, which has lower bandwidth than 1800MHz but longer reach.
Pawsey said: "It may hurt its market share in the long term, as the other networks expand to cover more of the country and are able to offer higher average speeds"
EE was first to launch a 4G service in the UK on 30 October 2012, well ahead of the Ofcom auction by "re-farming" spectrum it already owned on the 1800MHz band.
After an aggressive rollout, it now covers more than 100 towns around the UK and has over 1 million customers using 4G.