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The UK LTE race is on as O2 prepares August 29th launch

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For about nine months now, EE in the UK has had an exclusive lock on LTE service, but on August 29th it's going to have company. O2 has told the BBC that it will launch its 4G service on that date in three markets — London, Leeds, and Bradford — with ten more cities slated for 4G data by year's end. Unfortunately for O2's customers, its first offering won't compare well with what EE already has up and running. It will be initially slower than the recently enhanced EE network, will cost more (O2's basic 4G tier will reportedly run £26 per month), and it won't be compatible with the current iPhone 5's LTE bands. On that last point, Telefonica UK CEO Ronan Dunne told the BBC that he "would be frankly gobsmacked if [Apple's] roadmap didn't address that issue."

O2, which is owned by Telefonica in Spain, will soon face more than just EE in the 4G wireless space. Both Vodafone and Three are expected to launch new networks soon. To differentiate itself (and perhaps to make up for its slower initial speeds), Dunne says that O2 will offer a year's subscription to some sort of music service and other media content. The plans, first reported by The Next Web, will reportedly not include any sort of unlimited data option.

In the first three launch markets, O2 will cover five million people. However, the carrier says it intends to add coverage that could be available to as many as two million more each week, reaching 98 percent of the country by the end of 2015.