A new era for mobile phone use begins today as superfast 4G products and services are made available to millions of consumers in 11 cities across the UK.
EE, formerly known as Everything Everywhere, will launch its range of 4G products and services in London, Bristol, Birmingham, Cardiff, Leeds, Sheffield, Edinburgh, Glasgow, Liverpool, Southampton and Manchester.
The 4G network, which offers speeds up to five times faster than 3G, will be available on the Apple iPhone 5 as well as devices from HTC, Samsung, Nokia and Huawei.
The launch comes amid criticism of EE’s 4G pricing plans, which will hit customers on certain tariffs with additional charges if they exceed download allowances.
Long queues are expected at shops across the country as consumers rush to sign up to the new service and get their hands on a 4G device.
EE customers in a further five cities - Belfast, Derby, Hull, Newcastle and Nottingham - will have access to 4G by the end of the year.
The group then plans to roll out the service to further towns, cities and rural areas next year, with population coverage of 70 per cent and rising to 98 per cent in 2014.
Rival operators including Vodafone, O2 owner Telefonica and Three will be able to launch their own 4G services and products from next spring.
The companies had threatened legal action against communications regulator Ofcom over its 4G auction process, which has allowed EE to be the sole UK provider of the superfast services until next year.
Vodafone launched a “4G phone promise” last week, offering customers the chance to bring an eligible phone into any store and have 70 per cent knocked off their remaining contract, in exchange for taking on a 4G device.
The services will allow uninterrupted access to the web on the go, high definition movies to be downloaded in minutes and TV to be streamed without buffering.
The cheapest EE tariff offers just 500mb worth of downloads each month - the equivalent to two one-hour programmes on the BBC iPlayer.
Customers who want to download more than their 500mb allowance will have to pay extra, with a user looking to download eight one-hour programmes a month facing additional charges of up to £180 a year.
The EE deals range from £36 a month for 500mb of data downloads to £56 a month for 8GB of data. There are no plans for unlimited data downloads.
The UK is still behind other countries which have already launched 4G services, including the US, Canada, Japan, Germany, Australia, Korea, Hong Kong and Singapore.
3G launched in the UK in March 2003 when Hutchison 3G began offering the service to customers, bringing a vast improvement in network speeds.