Three won't charge extra for 4G when it launches later this year. Unlike the pricey EE, the company promises there won't be separate 3G and 4G price plans -- which means you could get 4G for as little as £7 per month, if it doesn't change its current deals.
Three's 4G service will launch in the second half of this year, using the 1,800MHz airwaves it's buying from EE. You'll need a phone with LTE gubbins built-in to benefit from the faster mobile Internet connection, but once you've got the right phone there's no extra cost.
When 4G launches in or after the summer, existing customers won't need to change price plans or SIM cards. If you own an iPhone 5, Nokia Lumia 920 or Sony Xperia Z you won't even have to change phones. The latest Apple iPad mini and iPad with retina display tablets are also ready for 4G.
Three vs EE
The first 4G phone network here in the UK is EE, the network formed by the merger of Orange and T-Mobile. EE has come under fire for its prices, or more specifically, the stingey data limitsincluded with each price plan: £36 for 500MB of data, anyone?
By contrast, Three's SIM-only deals start at a mere £6.90 per month for 500MB of data -- you do have to buy the phone yourself, but as a monthly fee that's a quarter of the cost of EE's cheapest 4G deal.
Opt for Three's One Plan and you can bag yourself unlimited all-you-can-eat data from £12.90 per month. That's a 12-month contract too, so you're not tied into a two-year deal like many of EE's plans.
What is Ultrafast?
Three is adding 4G LTE to its Ultrafast network, which currently uses the DC-HSDPA standard. DC-HSDPA is a faster version of 3G -- think of it as 3.5G -- and allows compatible phones to connect to the Web faster than 3G, even when you can't get 4G.
DC-HSDPA currently reaches half the UK population in 50 towns and cities. It's planned to reach 80 per cent of the population by the end of March. Three hasn't yet revealed how wide its 4G coverage will be.
The other phone networks don't have access to the 1,800MHz spectrum and have to buy different airwaves in an auction currently being held by Ofcom. The telecoms watchdog expects the first rival 4G services to launch in May.