O2 has announced that its 4G mobile network is set to launch on 29 August.
The service – offering higher mobile data speeds than 3G – will initially be available in London, Leeds and Bradford.
O2 said it planned to extend the service to a further 10 cities by the year’s end.
It will compete against EE, which is already offering 4G data to 95 cities and has a cheaper basic tariff than O2’s lowest-cost option.
O2 – which is owned by Spain’s Telefonica – has said that its basic 4G tariff would cost £26 a month.
By contrast EE’s cheapest rate is £21 a month for voice and data, or £15 a month for just data. However, until O2 reveals what its cheapest rate includes it is not possible to compare the offers properly.
Switching to a 4G network offers subscribers the chance to download movies, music, apps and other content several times faster than is possible on 3G.
It can also reduce the risk of streamed video or interactive games freezing due to buffering, and allows higher-quality video calls.
Telefonica paid £550m for O2’s 4G licences, which will use the 800MHz part of the radio spectrum.
Apple’s iPhone 5 is not compatible with the 800MHz spectrum, but Samsung’s Galaxy S4 can use it.
Telefonica UK’s chief executive, Ronan Dunne confirmed that unlike O2’s 4G network would not be compatible with Apple’s iPhone 5, but said he “would be frankly gobsmacked if their roadmap didn’t address that issue”.
That was less than the amounts EE and Vodafone invested. However, they also purchased 2.6GHz frequencies in addition to 800MHz bands.
The 800MHz bands are better at providing long-distance and indoor coverage, while 2.6GHz is capable of higher speeds.