EE has now lost its exclusivity over the UK's 4G services. It is no longer the only 4G network in the UK, with Vodafone and O2 both turning on their services and giving customers a whole world of options when it comes to choosing a tariff and network for fast data. Three has also shown its hand, and while it won't launch its service until December, it believes it has a few ace cards up its sleeves.
Before we look at the prices or devices, it's worth taking a look at the network, because if there's no 4G coverage in your area, then you're no better off than you were with 3G.
Best 4G network coverage
EE announced its 4G service in the UK on 11 September 2012, with the service going live on 30 October 2012. The 4G service is now available in 117 UK towns and cities, covering 60 per cent of the population.
Expansion is set to continue with a commitment to cover 98 per cent of the UK population by the end of 2014.
Twenty cities on the list benefit from "double speed 4G", including Belfast, Birmingham, Liverpool, London, Manchester, Newcastle, Nottingham and Sheffield. These twenty cities will experience a theoretical top speed of 150Mbps with EE's double speed 4G.
The O2 4G service has launched in three cities initially - London, Leeds and Bradford - but has recently expanded to Birmingham, Coventry, Leicester, Nottingham and Sheffield, with plans to launch in a total of 13 cities by the end of 2013.
One of the pitches from O2 is that it has secured plenty of 800MHz spectrum, meaning that it should perform better indoors than EE's 1800MHz offering.
Initial roll-out of Vodafone's 4G network covers London, but the network is adding Birmingham, Coventry, Nottingham, Leicester and Sheffield on 28 September, with 7 more cities planned before the end of 2013.
Vodafone asserts that 4G coverage will come to 98 per cent of the population, again making the point that it has plenty of 800MHz spectrum, so performing better indoors.
Three's 4G network will launch in the UK in December. It will cover London, Birmingham and Manchester initially, but coverage is promised to expand to 50 cities by the end of 2014.
Like Vodafone, Three claims that 98 per cent of the country will be covered by the end of 2015.
Best 4G tariffs: SIM-only
When it comes to tariffs, there's plenty of scope for complexity, with varying costs for devices, options to upgrade and a whole lot more. So we’re starting with SIM-only deals to see how the prices vary when you're paying for data only. All three 4G providers offer unlimited calls and unlimited text messages on these plans.
EE offers many more price bands than O2 or Vodafone, which have both settled on three bands to EE's six.
EE has the lowest 4G SIM-only tariff, starting at £21, but this gives you only 500MB of data so is probably best ignored. After all, why have 4G if you're not going to consume much data per month?
The next step up on all networks costs you £26. The best deal here is from Vodafone, offering 2GB of data, whilst EE and O2 only offer 1GB for the same price.
Both O2 and Vodafone look to offer better priced SIM-only tariffs than EE, especially if you order before 31 October. In the case of O2, if you're looking for more data, prices on the high data deals will be less favourable after 31 October, and then Vodafone looks like the better deal. While in the case of Vodafone, you’ll get 4GB more data with each tariff, including the £26 a month option, when you sign up before 31 October.
Three is taking a different tact. Although you won't get access to its new service until December, existing customers will be upgraded to 4G for no extra cost on their current price plans. That means that those on SIM-only plans could be quids in over the others. For example, a one month SIM with all-you-can-eat data currently costs just £12.90 a month.
Best 4G tariffs: Splitting devices and data
All the networks take a different approach to pairing up devices and your tariff. They all offer a selection of the best handsets you can get, but there's plenty of complexity when it comes to comparing prices directly. All the deals we're looking at here are for 24 months.
EE will charge you an upfront cost for some of the premium devices, but then you pay a fixed monthly data tariff.
Vodafone offers an all-in price, including the data tariff and the handset.
O2's 4G Refresh means you pick a data tariff and then pay a price for your device each month, with the advantage of being able to upgrade the handset at any time. But there are also options to lessen the monthly blow on O2 by paying some cash upfront, making the tariffs almost impossible to compare, but offering lots of flexibility for customers.
Three's plans are still 3G, but if you opt for a 4G phone on one of them, you'll get the services in the areas above as a simple software upgrade and at no extra cost. Some come with no up-front cost, some a little.
The cheapest way to get a 4G device and talk plan right now is to pick EE's 500MB plan at £26, with a free handset, such as the mid-range Sony Xperia SP. The cheapest EE deal with useful amounts of data is £31 for 1GB, with which you can get a free HTC One mini, which is a great mid-range device.
The cheapest Vodafone deal is to take the 2GB Red plan with a free device like the HTC One mini again for £34 a month: £3 more than EE but double the data.
O2's cheapest deal includes the Sony Xperia XP which costs £10 a month on O2 Refresh. Paired with O2's cheapest data deal, which is 1GB for £22 a month, you're looking at £32 a month.
Three is obviously not available yet, but its cheapest all-you-can-eat data plan that includes a 4G handset will cost £20 a month with a free Huawei Ascend P2.
Hottest smartphones, fastest data
By way of comparison, we've decided to look at a couple of the best handsets to compare prices.
Apple iPhone 5S
EE offers the 32GB Apple iPhone 5S with 2GB of data for £41 a month with an upfront device cost of £199.99. This works out at an average of £49 a month across the two-year life of the plan.
Vodafone will give you 2GB of data for £47 a month, along with a one-off payment of £149 for the 32GB iPhone 5S. Over 24 months, this works out at around £53 a month, but you will get an additional 4GB of data if you order before 31 October.
O2 offers the 32GB iPhone 5S with 1GB of data for £47 a month with a one-off upfront payment of £79.99, working out to be around £50 a month on average over the 24 months.
On Three, you will pay £46 a month with an upfront payment of £99 for the 32GB iPhone 5S, but you will get all-you-can-eat data with this plan. The average monthly cost works out to be around £50 over the contract period but you will get 4G at no extra cost when it arrives in December.
READ: Apple iPhone 5S review
EE will give you the 32GB model, with 2GB of data (£41 a month), for £49.99. That's £43 a month average across the two-year life of the contract.
Vodafone will give you the 32GB model, with 2GB of data, for £42 a month. Funny how these things work out.
O2 also offers the 32GB model, but its beginning package is just 1GB, which will also set you back £42 a month with no up-front cost.
Three's cheapest plan for the HTC One is £32 a month with a £29 up-front cost. That works out at just over £33 a month over your 24-month contract. The biggest draw here is that it offers all-you-can-eat data.
READ: HTC One review
Samsung Galaxy S4
EE will give you a 16GB Samsung Galaxy S4, with 2GB of data (£41 a month), for £19.99. That's £41.83 a month average for 2 years.
Vodafone will give you the 16GB SGS4, with 2GB of data, for £38 a month. Again, there's only a few pounds in it.
O2's deal also gives you a 16GB model, but if you don't want to pay up-front it will cost £42 a month for 1GB of data - the same as the HTC One.
Three is currently offering the 16GB Samsung Galaxy S4 for £33 a month with no up-front cost, with all-you-can-eat data, and that will be upgraded to 4G come December.
READ: Samsung Galaxy S4 review
With 4G being ideal for pushing more than just messages and pictures to your phone, all the networks have turned to offering entertainment incentives to tempt you into LTE.
EE is continuing its Orange cinema deals, offering 2-for-1 cinema tickets on Wednesdays. Continuing the theme, there's EE Film, giving you access to the latest releases to stream (£3.99 for a new title), along with a special 99p deal on Thursdays. There's also mobile TV, Deezer and game downloads you can get to, Clone phone lite and services like Cash on Tap.
Vodafone wants to tempt you across with the promise of Spotify Premium or Sky Sports Mobile TV access as part of the deal. The former is worth £9.99 a month, Sky Sports Mobile TV is £4.99 a month. However, if you opt for the Vodafone Red plan, the cheapest, you only get six months of free access. If you want it for longer, you'll have to take the Red L or XL plans.
O2 is sweetening the deal with music, letting you download all the Top 40 hits, as well as stream the videos to your device. If you want to game, then O2 also offers a gaming deal, with any gaming data not detracting from your data allowance. There's also the O2 Priority offering that's already in place.
We're not overly convinced by the extras on offer. In reality, we'd rather pay less for data, than subsidise the freebees. However, EE's cinema offer is good, although that's in existence for 3G Orange customers already.
Vodafone's Spotify Premium deal is pretty good if you're taking one of the pricier plans, saving you from that separate cost.
Three hasn't revealed any deals as yet as it hasn't launched its service, but its free upgrade plan could be considered the best sweetener of them all.
If you're looking at moving to 4G, then there will be other upgrade offers, incentives, as well as options to trade in your 3G contract to move over. O2 will let you trial 4G for three months, and if you don't like the experience, you can return to 3G and get £15 credit on your account. Vodafone will let those who have a 4G ready handset trial the 4G experience for three months, using as much data as they like, before presenting the options available. Vodafone will also let you test 4G for a month: pay £10 and you'll get 1GB to test, so long as you have a 4G-ready handset.
The elephant in the room is Three. Although it will have the least amount of coverage come the end of this year, the fact that you can get a 4G handset now at 3G prices and not have to pay anymore to use it on 4G when it is available is a strong proposition. But you might not want to wait.
For those already available, the quick comparisons we've done reveal that there isn't a huge difference in price once you've crunched the numbers: it comes down to a few pounds here and there.
EE certainly has the widest coverage at the moment, but if you're a London resident, that might be of little concern, as the capital will be well covered by all the 4G network services on offer.
One thing to watch out for, however, is O2 and Vodafone's offers that runs to the end of October: if you're thinking of moving to 4G with O2 or Vodafone, then the offer of additional data for the life of your contract on O2 and 4GB extra on Vodafone is tempting indeed.