‘4G-ready mobile phones’ is a phrase we have seen more and more frequently when referring to handsets running on a non-4G network.
Essentially, these are devices that have 4G capabilities, but they currently lie dormant, ready to be activated when used with a next-gen carrier.
The good news for those of you with 4G-ready phones is that might not too far away. And that’s because although EE is currently the sole UK 4G provider, O2, Three and Vodafone are all set to enable their 4G networks later in the year.
But what will happen to the 4G-ready phones at that time? Will they get a 4G signal? Will existing contracts be supported when 4G arrives? Or will a completely new contract be needed?
We contacted the various networks to have all these questions answered. And we think you’ll agree there were some surprising outcomes.
O2 responded with some information that not everyone will know, even those on its network.
A spokesperson said: “4G-ready phones from O2 will be compatible when the service is launched in the summer.”
“Customers will require a 4G SIM and these have been included with 4G phone sales since June 2013.”
“Customers who need a 4G SIM for their 4G device can easily pick one up from an O2 Shop”
The network today announced it will offer 4G from £26 per month when the service goes live on August 29th.
Orange and T-Mobile
Orange and T-Mobile have said they will remain 3G brands only, so customers would need to move to EE if they would like to use 4G.
The network told us: “There are no plans to launch 4G on Orange and T-Mobile. EE is our 4G brand.”
Three has previously stated on the subject of 4G: “Unlike some other UK mobile operators, it will be available across all its existing and new price plans without customers needing to pay a premium fee to ‘upgrade’.”
“4G will be available as standard with all customers’ price plans when the roll-out begins later this year.”
The network has also informed us that an over-the-air-network update will be needed for 4G-ready mobile phones to access the service when it launches in Q4.
Vodafone told us: “4G-ready devices that we have in our range will be able to use our 4G service when we launch (which we have said will happen by late summer).”
“But in order to get access to that service, customers will have to add Vodafone 4G to their monthly plan (as per https://www.vodafone.co.uk/4g/4g-devices/index.htm)”
“That web page also says that additional charges apply for 4G services, but we are not yet giving details of what the pricing structure is for 4G.”
We also asked if the service launched today, would a 4G-ready phone be able to use the 4G service or need to upgrade to another plan. The pithy response was: “Upgrade to a 4G plan, we've not said what it'll cost yet.”
Networks and their 4G readiness at a glance
Vodafone and Three both appear to have 4G-enabled SIMs for their upcoming networks. O2 customers, who took out an LTE mobile prior to June, will need to get a new SIM. These carriers are those who look most prepared.
The most disappointing news came from Orange and T-Mobile. Both sell and have sections on their websites for ‘4G-ready phones’. That begs the question, ready for what, exactly? Ready to leave Orange and T-Mobile, for 4GEE is the answer.
Three doesn’t appear to be charging any more of its 4G service; O2 is still cagey about its offering and Vodafone will charge a fee, but it is unsure what it is yet.
This is a guest post by Rob Kerr, a contributing editor to our mobile phone comparison sister site Omio