MOBILE phone users in Edinburgh will today be among the first in the UK to experience super-fast downloads and browsing as the next-generation 4G network is rolled out across the Capital.
The £16.5 billion upgrade by operator EE, created by the merger of Orange and T-Mobile, will mean internet speeds up to five times faster than currently available on the 3G mobile service.
EE bosses said the whole of the city has been included in the service – available on the Apple iPhone 5 as well as devices from HTC, Samsung, Nokia and Huawei.
The term 4G refers to a new standard of mobile internet technology, which is able to compress data so that much higher quantities of it can be sent more quickly.
Managers at EE said the new technology would offer download speeds of up to 20Mb per second on mobile phones, allowing music and video streaming on the go and films to be downloaded in only a few minutes.
Theo Currie, sales consultant at the EE store on Princes Street, said: “The biggest difference which people will notice is really the speed.
“Whereas you might find there was a pause when you clicked on a link with 3G, with this new technology, you click and the web page will just be there. If you’re checking your Facebook page and you want to open a photo, it will open instantly.”
Mr Currie said the 4G service would be available in five monthly packages, ranging from £36 for 500Mb of data to £56 a month for eight gigabytes.
As well as unlimited calls and texts, he said customers would be able to take advantage of special add-ons such as free downloads of video games and live television.
And he rejected criticisms that EE’s pricing plan could see some customers hit by huge unforeseen bills after it was calculated a 500Mb user looking to download eight one-hour programmes a month could face additional charges of up to £180 a year.
He said: “We are aiming to be as transparent as possible – if you reach your allowance limit and continue trying to use the service, a page will appear prompting you to buy a booster.”
Edinburgh is one of ten major UK cities to be included in the initial roll-out of 4G. EE bosses said 98 per cent of customers in Britain would have access to the upgrade by 2014.
Confirmation that the Capital would be among the first to experience the next-generation technology was also hailed by business leaders.
David Birrell, chief executive at Edinburgh Chamber of Commerce, said: “Once 4G is adopted in significant numbers it should benefit almost any business that needs connectivity, and certainly those with e-commerce capabilities.”
However, he stressed it would be up to businesses themselves to grasp the opportunities created by 4G technology.
He said: “We are very pleased to be amongst the early adopters of the 4G network – but only once it is ubiquitous amongst the business community will we really start to see the benefits.”