Can I get 4G in my area?
With 4G coverage now reaching around 70% of UK properties, the chances of receiving 4G in your area are increasing by the day. The networks are expanding rapidly, so if 4G hasn’t reached your town or village yet, it may well do soon.
We reveal the latest news on 4G, including the providers that offer it, estimated speeds and what you can expect to pay for it. But first you need to check whether you can receive it in your area.
To find out whether you can get 4G in your area, click the logos below to see the coverage checkers on each of the 4G providers’ sites.
EE runs the country’s biggest 4G network
EE is the UK’s pioneer when it comes to 4G, and its early adoption of the technology means its network has the most extensive 4G coverage in the country. EE has also partnered with BT to form BT Mobile. This means BT uses EE’s 4G network to provide its customers with fast mobile broadband.
But other providers also offer 4G
However, Vodafone, Three and O2 also have their own 4G networks. Tesco Mobile and giffgaff both use the O2 4G network, and have agreements to ensure their customers are treated equally when it comes to speed and access. Although the providers piggyback on O2, you aren’t guaranteed the same 4G coverage and speed. Virgin Mobile, Asda and Plusnet all use the EE 4G network. iD Mobile uses the Three network.
What is 4G?
4G is the Fourth Generation in mobile communication to reach British shores. It is designed to replace the previous 3G standard of transmitting wireless data to deliver faster mobile broadband to UK consumers. 4G is a data-only service and voice calls continue to be carried across the 3G network.
How fast is 4G?
Typical users can expect 4G download speeds to be up to seven times faster than existing 3G networks, according to Ofcom.
The latest Ofcom speed tests show average 4G download speeds of 22Mbps for EE, 15Mbps for Vodafone, 17Mbps for Three and 13Mbps for O2.
With a connection offering this level of speed you can enjoy richer content on your mobile and download High Definition (HD) movies in minutes, watch live streaming TV without any buffering, and make HD video calls.
Upload speeds can get up to 15Mbps in areas with high signal strength, with the average speed being 13.6Mbps. Latency, or how long it takes for the 4G network to respond to a data request from your handset, is up to 50% better than with 3G technology.
How can I sign up?
You can sign up by visiting the 4G providers’ websites. Customers of O2 and Vodafone, along with Orange and T-Mobile (now owned by EE) can also find out about upgrading from existing 3G contracts to 4G.
Each provider offers a range of tariffs to choose from with different 4G data limits, plus unlimited texts and calls. You can choose to take a new phone with your 4G plan, or take out a SIM-only tariff to use in your existing handset (providing it’s 4G compatible).
Where is it available?
After being the first provider to offer the service, EE has maintained its lead in 4G coverage throughout the country and still offers the best chance of getting 4G in the UK. According to Ofcom, EE’s 4G coverage extends to 97% of UK premises, and this includes all major cities and their suburbs.
O2 launched its 4G service in August 2013 and has had a steady, but not meteoric, rise in its coverage since that time. Its broadband signal now covers around 66% of all UK premises, so it’s certainly worth checking O2’s 4G coverage tracker if you’re hoping to get the service.
Vodafone’s 4G network is similar to O2’s. It too started in August 2013, and also covers 65% of all UK premises. Make sure you check Vodafone’s coverage before you purchase a 4G package as it will cover different areas than O2.
Three was a little late to the party with its 4G signal launching its service at the end of 2013, but it now covers 53% of the population. Make sure you check Three’s coverage in your area before purchasing a 4G plan.
What equipment will I need?
To access the 4G network you’ll need a 4G-ready mobile phone, a 4G tariff and a 4G SIM card.
Most handsets that have hit the market since the launch of 4G are 4G-ready, and are usually indicated as such on the providers’ listings. If you’re not sure whether your current handset is 4G-ready or not, check with the provider before you choose a 4G SIM, if you’re going down the SIM-only route.
What if I can’t get 4G?
If you can’t yet sample the delights of lightning-quick connectivity on your mobile phone, then there are alternatives. Mobiles that use the 3G network can still accomplish all your needs, and they come with a wide variety of packages and deals. Crucially, the 3G network is cheaper and still more widespread than 4G, meaning it is available to a wider audience.