The next generation in mobile phone technology was launched in Cardiff today – one of the first cities in the UK to have the new 4G network.
It will mean users have access to high-speed mobile internet, offering speeds up to five times faster than 3G.
Eleven cities across Britain were selected to introduce 4G, which allows users to watch films and play games while on the move.
EE network, which owns Orange and T-Mobile, is the first company to offer 4G. Other networks will not offer the service until spring next year.
David Rowlands, 34, who woke at 5.30am and travelled from Bournemouth to buy 4G, said he had been following the service’s progress across the world.
“I was standing outside at 8.15am. What annoys me is you go to America and 4G is everywhere. I don’t know why it’s taken so long to come here but I’m glad to have it now,” he said.
4G has speeds between 8 and 12Mbps and users will be able to watch videos instantly and use Skype on the move.
Gerwyn Morgan, 40, the EE regional manager for South Wales, said 4G would allow customers to use their phones in completely new ways.
“Cardiff being one of first cities to launch 4G is an incredibly proud moment. It means customers with 4G network phones can download films faster, watch live TV on the move and play live multi-player games,” he said.
The service is only available on certain phones, including the iPhone 5 and select Samsung, HTC, Nokia and Huawei models. Customers with Orange or T-Mobile will be able to upgrade to 4G with EE, said Mr Morgan.
“Customers with 3G have the opportunity to come in and upgrade. Quite a number of customers have been in the store wanting to buy 4G lately so we’re expecting an uplift today and in the coming weeks”, he said.
One of the first Welsh customers, Pedro Guerrero, 41, said he had put off buying the latest iPhone until he could get 4G.
He said: “3G was so much faster than the one before and they say this is even faster so I’m just keeping up really.”
The starting price for a 4G package is £36 a month, which includes unlimited calls and texts. For many customers, the faster service is worth the price.
Peter Williams, a 20-year-old student at Cardiff University, said he was happy to pay for better service.
“It’s got the best of everything. I’ve been waiting to buy it for two weeks, ever since I first heard about it.”
The starting tariff comes with 500MB of data and users must pay extra if they use the internet beyond this limit. The top tariff has a data allowance of 8GB, but will cost £56 per month.
Dr Mike Redding, Future Technology expert at University of Wales, Newport, said the faster internet speeds meant many customers would use more data.
“If you’ve got faster connection then you’ll get through that cap very quickly. Service providers need to come up with a model that’s fair and makes them money because it’s expensive to launch 4G,” he said.
EE claims the whole of Cardiff will be covered by 4G, but Dr Redding said coverage may not be constant.
“My own experience with 3G is it doesn’t take much to knock it out,” he said.
“There’s a limited capacity. As more people get 4G then it will become less fast and you would certainly notice speed difference when more people are using it.”
Rival operators including Vodafone, O2 owner Telefonica and Three will be able to launch their own 4G services and products from next spring.
The companies had threatened legal action against communications regulator Ofcom over its 4G auction process, which has allowed EE to be the sole UK provider of the superfast services until next year.
Are you using 4G in Cardiff already? What do you think of it? Let us know in the comments below.