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Vodafone and O2 switch on 4G networks

Vodafone and O2 have today launched their 4G mobile services with a limited roll out.

Vodafone has switched on the superfast network in parts of London, whilst O2 has made its network available across the capital, Leeds and Bradford.

4G services offer mobile broadband speeds up to 10 times faster than 3G. The fast connection uses much more data than 3G however, hiking up the price for consumers and the networks.

As a result, neither company is offering unlimited data plans, with the highest cap on offer for both being set at 8GB, something that consumer groups have said is a concern.

1GB a month allowance can easily be exceeded on 4G through HD movie streaming or downloading for example, leading to extra charges.

Vodafone's phone inclusive 4G plans will start at £34 a month for a 24 month contract. The network does offer a Data Test Drive' system, which gives customers unlimited data usage for the first three months so their data usage can be tracked and their tariff changed at the end of the period if need be.

O2's handset inclusive plans start at £32. Both company's SIM only plans start at £26- £5 more expensive than EE's cheapest 4G rate.

EE currently offers up to 20GB or data allowance per month. The company launched its 4G network 10 months ahead of its competitors and is now available in over 100 towns and cities.

Three is the only network to say it will offer unlimited data plans on 4G. It announced a December launch for its superfast service today.

In a further challenge to its rivals, the company also revealed that all existing 3G Three customers, with 4G ready phones, will automatically be transferred to the superfast network for free, with no need to sign a new contract.

Both Vodafone and O2 said their 4G networks will be available in over 10 towns and cities by the end of the year, with Vodafone also promising to switch on a new 4G site every half an hour in the capital over the coming months.

Bill Moore, CEO of RootMetrics, a mobile research firm said EE has set "a high bar" with its 4G launch as the company has "over delivered on its initial promises for coverage and performance".

"It will be interesting to measure Vodafone and O2's initial performance to see if their 4G roll outs follow the same pattern or if they deliver to their stated performance levels from the off," he added.