Vodafone announces 4G network switch on date and pricing

Vodafone has confirmed its 4G network will be switched on in London on 29 August, and then in 12 more cities before the end of the year.

The cities will include Birmingham, Bradford, Coventry, Edinburgh, Glasgow, Leeds, Leicester, Liverpool, Manchester, Newcastle, Nottingham and Sheffield, Vodafone has confirmed.

In a statement on the Vodafone website, the mobile operator said customers will be offered a choice of three tariffs, including a year-long, 26 a month SIM-only plan that will provide users with up to 2GB of data.

The firm's other SIM-only, 12-month contract options will offer users 4GB or 8GB of data for 31 and 36 a month, respectively.

However, for the first three months, users will have the benefit of unlimited data through Vodafone's Data Test Drive initiative, which is designed to help users ascertain how much mobile data they require.

Vodafone Red customers can upgrade their plans to include 4G for an extra 5 a month.

The launch date will see the firm going toe-to-toe with rival operator O2, who will also be switching on its superfast mobile network in London, Leeds, and Bradford on 29 August.

The firm also set out plans to rollout the network to a further 10 cities before the year is out. These include Birmingham, Newcastle, Glasgow, Liverpool, Nottingham, Leicester, Coventry, Sheffield, Manchester and Edinburgh.

Both firms were forced to wait for the outcome of the Ofcom 4G auction in February (which saw Vodafone and O2 stump up 790 million and 550 million, respectively) to secure the spectrum blocks needed to launch their 4G networks.

Rival mobile operator EE had a head start on both of them, though, as it was granted permission to reuse its 1,800 MHz spectrum allocation to deliver 4G services last August. The company formally switched its 4G network on the following month.

Ernest Doku, telecoms expert at market comparison site uSwitch, said Vodafone's 4G plans should give its competitors plenty of food for thought.

"While EE is all but certain to win in a race of superfast speeds at the moment - particularly with its recent doubling efforts - Vodafone's 4G plans offer the perks, price points and premium content to make it a genuinely compelling option," he said.

"This could give it an edge on O2, who despite being first to announce its launch later this month, could be left behind in the 4G race again. All eyes will now be on it to deliver equally competitive deals and bring a truly competitive 4G service to the UK," Doku added.

Caroline Donnelly is the news and analysis editor of IT Pro and its sister site Cloud Pro, and covers general news, as well as the storage, security, public sector, cloud and Microsoft beats. Caroline has been a member of the IT Pro/Cloud Pro team since March 2012, and has previously worked as a reporter at several B2B publications, including UK channel magazine CRN, and as features writer for local weekly newspaper, The Slough and Windsor Observer. She studied Medical Biochemistry at the University of Leicester and completed a Postgraduate Diploma in Magazine Journalism at PMA Training in 2006.