Three steals O2 and Vodafone thunder with 'free 4G' on day of launch

As O2 and Vodafone launch their 4G, Three has unveiled plans to offer it free of charge to all customers - the only UK mobile network to have made such a promise. And it'll also give you unlimited data...

Three, the smallest of the UK's four main mobile networks, has announced it'll give away 4G to customers at no extra cost when it launches in December.

It's no coincidence Three revealed its intentions today, as O2 and Vodafone have just begun charging their customers at least £26 per month for 4G. Three 4G will be offered at no extra cost to new and existing customers with a 4G-ready smartphone.

What makes Three's offer even more interesting is that 4G will also be available on Three's all-you-can-eat 'unlimited' data plans. Three is so far the only UK mobile network to make such an offer, which could spark a 4G price/data war.

Three's rivals have been criticised for not giving 4G customers enough data to play with.

EE has faced the most scrutiny as its cheapest 4G plan, costing £21 per month, is limited to just 500MB of data per month. That's only enough to stream roughly two hours of standard-definition video.

Until now, Three's kept relatively tight-lipped about 4G, although it did admit a while back it was in "no hurry" to follow in the footsteps of EE.

The network previously known as Everything Everywhere, formed by the merging of Orange and T-Mobile, has extended 'superfast' coverage to more than 100 towns and cities - around 60% of the population - since launching last October.

O2 and Vodafone, which are sharing 4G phone masts, will be slower to roll-out the new technology. Vodafone 4G will initially be limited to parts of London, while O2 4G has been switched on in Leeds and Bradford as well as the capital.

Both will aim for 98% coverage by the end 2015, and Three reckons it can do the same.

Dominic Baliszewski, our telecoms expert, said: "Just like the black and white TVs of yesteryear, 3G is doing a perfectly good job for millions of mobile users - but 4G is the Technicolor revolution.

"Whether you 'need' it or not, 4G offers mobile internet that's typically five times faster than 3G and in some cases 10 times faster. The advantages are obvious as soon as you use it and experience first-hand how quickly you can access the content you want.

"But if you're making the jump to 4G, look beyond price and consider things like network coverage, speeds and, in particular, data limits - data is being charged at a premium on 4G services."

You should think about how much data you're likely to use, whether you need 4G right now or could actually wait a while and whether you'll get a decent signal where you live.

If you want 4G immediately and live in London, the unbeatable deal is Vodafone 4G with 2GB of data for £26 per month. For the folks of Leeds and Bradford there's also O2 4G, although it gives you half as much data for your money.

At the moment, if you live anywhere else in the UK, provided it's been switched on in your area, your choice is limited to EE - Britain's biggest and fastest mobile network - which has plans ranging from £21 per month for 500MB to £61 per month for 20GB.

However, if you're willing to wait a while longer for 4G, then Three, as it stands, has the most attractive deal. Its 'free 4G' promise is unmatched by rivals, and no other provider will give you unlimited 4G data.

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