O2 4G network going live on 29 August - but bad news for iPhone 5 owners

"O2 officially announces 4G LTE network, faster speeds go live on August 29
Good news for O2's 23m UK customers

O2 has officially confirmed its 4G LTE network will go live in the UK on August 29, with SIM-Only tariffs starting at just £26 a month.

The company will switch on its next-gen network in London and Leeds and Bradford on the first day, with plans to open up 4G access in ten more areas before 2013 comes to a close.

Those additional cities will be: Birmingham, Glasgow, Liverpool, Newcastle, Nottingham, Leicester, Coventry, Sheffield, Manchester, and Edinburgh.

The bad news is that it appears iPhone 5 users won't be able to get the 4G speeds, despite the phone being 4G ready. This is because O2 will be deploying on the 800MHz band, which Apple's device doesn't support.

Most other 4G-ready devices, namely the Samsung Galaxy S4 and HTC One, can merrily connect to this lower frequency, leading O2 to have to offer users the chance to break contract and scrap their iPhone if they want 4G from the get-go.

In its announcement the network did not go into specifics regarding the range of tariffs it will offer at launch, but told TechRadar 'Pay Monthly' contracts will be 'beyond' the cheapest £26 a month SIM-Only deals.

'Oxygen of modern life'

The launch finally brings some competition for 4G trailblazer EE, which has had the UK market to itself since October 2012 and racked up close to 700,000 customers already.

As has been widely documented, EE took its rivals by surprise by winning permission from Ofcom to convert existing 1800Mhz spectrum for 4G use, while the rest were forced to wait for the spectrum auction.

O2 splashed out £550m to secure its own 4G spectrum earlier this year including the largest proportion of the low frequency 800MHz frequency. The network's announcement comes on the day that spectrum was cleared for use by Ofcom.

The CEO of Telefonica UK, which owns O2, Ronan Dunne said: "Digital connectivity will be made ubiquitous by 4G and become the oxygen of modern life. It is our intention to use 4G to inspire the nation through the possibilities of technology, encouraging people to live more, do more and be more with O2.

"The full potential of 4G is as yet unexplored, but what we can be sure of is that it will allow for a whole new world of opportunity that people are now ready for. Over half of our customers say they use more data than two years ago and even more use wifi wherever they go, to always stay connected. Given this trend, there is no doubt that 4G will transform our lives, be it as consumers, in business or through public sector services."

Happiness, guaranteed

The company said that all 4G contracts will come with a 30-day Happiness Guarantee enabling customers to be transferred to a 3G tariff if unsatisfied with 4G speeds.

O2 also revealed it will provide provide options for businesses and, naturally, give all customers access to its 9,000 free O2 Wi-Fi hotspots in the UK.

The company recently teased the 4G launch was 'right around the corner' with a new Rocky-inspired Fit for 4G campaign.

We'll bring you specific details of tariffs as soon as O2 announces them, but at last UK mobile users are about to have a little choice when it comes to 4G and, hopefully, some better deals.

Chris Smith

A technology journalist, writer and videographer of many magazines and websites including T3, Gadget Magazine and TechRadar.com. He specializes in applications for smartphones, tablets and handheld devices, with bylines also at The Guardian, WIRED, Trusted Reviews and Wareable. Chris is also the podcast host for The Liverpool Way. As well as tech and football, Chris is a pop-punk fan and enjoys the art of wrasslin'.