What is 4G?
4G is a lightning-quick internet connection for mobile devices – the fourth generation of wireless mobile communications technology, set to usurp the current 3G network in use today.
How fast is it?
It is said to offer speeds of up to 20Mb per second, faster than many home broadband connections but way behind current home fibre optic offerings which provide speeds of upto 100Mb.
4G means you will be able to download and stream music and videos easily while on the go – a standard definition movie will take just 10-15 minutes to download via 4G. The faster connection also means mobile gamers will be able to enjoy richly detailed and complex online multiplayer games.
Who is offering it?
No one yet, but regulator Ofcom has given Everything Everywhere (EE) the green light to launch the UK's first 4G mobile internet service in September 2012.
What is Everything Everywhere?
It's the confusingly named company encompassing Orange and T-Mobile. The group will launch a new brand name to plug the 4G service in the UK later this year – 4G Everywhere was registered by the company as a trademark in May, as well as 4G Everything and 4GEE.
Will I be able to get 4G with any other provider?
The government is due to start an auction by the end of 2012 whereby the UK's mobile network providers will bid for a slice of the 4G spectrum, with firms expected to start rolling out 4G services to consumers in late 2013. But because EE already has sufficient space on its existing 3G spectrum, Ofcom has allowed it to launch 4G ahead of its rivals.
Will consumers have to pay more for 4G than 3G?
EE will not talk about its 4G plans at all at the moment, but industry insiders think customers will have to pay more to enjoy the faster mobile connection speed.
Dominic Baliszewski, telecoms expert at BroadbandChoices, says: "New technology always comes at a premium so it is highly likely that any 4G plans launched will be at a higher cost than current 3G services."
Will I need a new phone?
Yes, you'll need a 4G-capable phone.
Are they available in the UK?
Not right now. The earliest date at which EE is able to launch a 4G service – 11 September 2012 – is just one day ahead of Apple's rumoured unveiling of its iPhone 5, though it is unclear if the phone will be able to support 4G in the UK.
In the US the likes of HTC, Nokia, Samsung, Blackberry and LG all offer 4G mobile phones and could easily tweak them for the UK market. But with 4G-capable phones unlikely to be ready for the UK market in time for Christmas, it is thought EE might market the service using dongles which plug into laptops to give them a mobile signal.
Will contracted consumers be able to upgrade from 3G to 4G?
This will be entirely at the discretion of the network, Baliszewski says. "Normally, customers who want to leave a mobile phone contract early are obliged to pay part or all of the outstanding contract costs before they are allowed to switch.
"Customers who have recently signed up to a new 18-24-month contract may find themselves facing financial penalties to leave early, but it would be worth speaking to Orange or T-Mobile first to see if they are prepared to give leeway here."
Will data be capped under a 4G plan?
This is the big question. There's not much point taking out an expensive 4G plan that allows you to download and stream huge amounts of data if the provider then caps the amount of data you can stream/download.
"Mobile phone networks tend to charge a premium for data compared with fixed-line broadband, coupling low download limits with hefty fees for breaching your data cap," Baliszewski says. "Any 4G plans that are launched could potentially come with a more generous download limit than current 3G options, but an unlimited data allowance would be the preferred option allowing customers to make the most of a 4G service."