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Brit 4G live TODAY: At last you can bust your data cap in 5 minutes

In some areas - but we'll sell you a handset regardless

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EE's 4G network goes live today, offering a lucky few in eleven cites the chance to exceed their data caps in less than five minutes, while competitors remind us that not all 4G networks are made equal.

The network goes live this morning in eleven cities, with the company promising coverage to 98 per cent of the population by the end of 2014, adding 2,000 square miles of 4G goodness every month between now and then. EE isn't quoting speeds, preferring to let "4G" talk for itself, but very early adopters are reporting download speeds approaching 40Mb/sec, which should burn though that 500MB cap pretty quickly.

700 EE stores also open today, selling 4G handsets and contracts to customers desperate to get the fastest possible connectivity, though one has to question how many shoppers at the Inverness branch will ever see the promised speeds as 3G barely stretches that far north and at 1800MHz EE's 4G hasn't better reach or penetration than its existing 3G network (at 2.1GHz), a point not lost on Vodafone.

The auction for 800MHz, which offers much better reach and penetration, isn't even starting until next year, but Vodafone is clearly planning to grab some of the ex-TV spectrum as its promising "everyone can get [Vodafone] 4G when it launches next Spring" and offering a free replacement handset and 70 per cent of the remaining contract charges when customers upgrade to Vodafone 4G, when such a network exists.

Vodafone is making much of its backhaul capability, pointing out that it owns the remains of Cable & Wireless Worldwide which includes miles of fibre optic cable over which it will be able to provide better backhaul.

Backhaul will probably be significant, particularly in towns where thousands of 4G handsets could be coexisting, and using data. The jumps in signalling, caused by all those Facebook and Twitter apps relentlessly pinging the network, will strain the network infrastructure well before everyone starts watching video news of some breaking event.

EE has to make a great deal of its 4G radio spectrum: until the middle of next year it is the only operator to have any. Naturally Vodafone will make much of its backhaul as it has more than everyone else. We understand that Three won't be making reference to "4G" at all, when it launches in 1800MHz next year, and O2 still hasn't said how it will be sugar-coating the pill of more-expensive data which has, so far, been the most notable aspect of 4G in the UK. ®

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