3 UK adopts stealth approach to LTE launch

If you are a 3 UK customer and have recently bought an LTE device such as an iPhone 5s, you may find yourself unexpectedly able to access LTE networks, depending on where you live.

gold colored iphone 5s

3 UK has adopted a stealth approach to its LTE launch.

Buried in a press release published on Wednesday about the extension of the operator's "Free At Home" roaming service from seven to 11 markets through the addition of the United States, Indonesia, Sri Lanka and Macau, 3 UK also confirmed its LTE rollout plans.

Starting Dec. 2, the operators said it had begun "upgrading customers with a 4G-ready device, so they can access the latest high-speed data technology when they are in an area with 4G coverage. This rollout will accelerate in January, with all customers with a compatible device able to access 4G at no extra cost by the end of Q1 2014 when they are in an area with 4G coverage."

3 UK said it aims to cover 50 cities with its LTE network by the end of 2014 and 98 per cent of the population by the end of 2015.

"We are building a brand and network that encourages and enables customers to enjoy the mobile internet," said CEO David Dyson. "Customers are using more data than ever on Three, far more than on any other network. As we add 4G capacity to the network, this experience will only get better."

3 UK announced plans to launch its LTE services in December with somewhat more fanfare in August, when it said services would start in London, Birmingham and Manchester. At the time, the Hutchison Whampoa-owned operator also confirmed that all-you-can-eat data will be available with its LTE plans, and that customers will not have to pay a premium for the high-speed services compared to 3G plans.

The "unlimited" aspect to 3 UK's LTE plans will bring an interesting twist to the UK market, where EE, Vodafone UK and O2 UK already offer LTE services but do not provide any unlimited plans, although inclusive data allowances are generous.

EE, which had a considerable head start on its rivals, has already launched a number of new innovations such as "double-speed" LTE services, now available in 20 cities, a new range of cheaper "4GEE" tariffs with high inclusive data allowances and the UK market's first data sharing plans for consumers, Shared 4GEE.

EE also announced on Wednesday that its LTE services will be available in 160 towns and cities by Christmas. In November, EE switched on an early version of its LTE Advanced network, with initial coverage limited to an area in the UK capital called London Tech City and selected companies permitted to trial the technology until its commercial launch next year.

Vodafone UK and O2 have been focusing on inclusive sports and music content, among other value-added services, as well as bonus data to drive LTE adoption.

For more:
- see this 3 UK release
- see this The Verge article
- see this GigaOM article

Related Articles:
3 UK to launch LTE in December with unlimited data plans
EE and O2 widen UK LTE battle to pay-as-you-go market
EE slashes LTE prices, warns on capex cuts
EE crosses 100 cities covered with LTE, as rivals get on their marks