Three rolls out free 4G upgrades for London, Birmingham and Manchester

Three has begun the rollout of its 4G network and has revealed that existing customers will be upgraded to 4G at no extra cost, starting today.

The first three cities to benefit from Three’s 4G coverage will be London, Birmingham and Manchester – as you’d expect, really – which will all go 4G before the end of 2013. For those just outside of the three launch cities, Three says it will also bring 4G to Oldham, Reading, Dudley and Wolverhampton as part of the 2013 rollout.

Customers will be upgraded behind the scenes at Three and then, if they have a 4G compatible phone already, a software update will arrive on each phone to get it on board and working with Three’s 4G. Phones such as the iPhone 5S, HTC One and Samsung Galaxy S4 are amongst the 4G compatible phones already out there and just waiting to be upgraded.

The network says it plans to bring 4G coverage to 50 more cities in 2014, including Bristol, Aberdeen, Leeds, Southampton, Liverpool, Newcastle Upon Tyne and many more. You can check out the full list at Three.co.uk.

Three says that all customers will be upgraded to 4G compatible status before the end of March 2014, ready for the full rollout which will bring 4G coverage to 98% of the UK’s population by the end of 2015.

Oddly, speeds on Three’s 4G network will apparently only reach 14mbps, going by this diagram from the network’s website. Considering that its current DC-HSDPA network offers 12mbps on select phones and rival network EE offers speeds of up to 40mbps in some cities, it seems like an upgrade not worth going for if you’ve got a phone with DC-HSDPA connectivity already.

Fast enough?

On the plus side, once you’ve been upgraded to 4G and Three brings coverage to your area, all you need is a 4G phone and the software upgrade – there’s no need to sign a new contract or pay to upgrade.

Three also announced the end of roaming charges for its customers visiting the US today – read more about that here.