3 UK has started to rollout its LTE service and aims to cover 50 cities by the end of the year. It previously announced that London, Birmingham and Manchester would be the first cities to go live.

The UK’s smallest operator has started to upgrade customers that already have 4G-ready devices so they can access the LTE network when in coverage areas. The rollout of the service will accelerate in January with all customers with a compatible device able to access 4G services at no extra charge by the end of the first quarter of 2014.

The company said its LTE network will be accessible by 98 per cent of the UK population by the end of 2015.

“Customers are using more data than ever on 3, far more than on any other network. As we add 4G capacity to the network, this experience will only get better,” claimed 3 UK chief executive Dave Dyson (pictured).

The operator is the last in the UK to launch LTE and will use the 800 MHz spectrum it secured for £225 million in February’s spectrum auction. The company previously said its 4G capability will be rolled out as a software update on LTE-enabled devices.

EE was the first UK operator to launch LTE in October 2012, with Vodafone and O2 following on 29 August 2013.

Dyson said in March that 3 UK was in no rush to launch LTE due to the belief that the quality of the existing 3G coverage would stop customers defecting to rivals offering 4G services earlier.

In separate news, the operator announced subscribers will now be able to use their UK data, call and text allowance when in the USA, Indonesia, Sri Lanka and Macau. ‘Feel At Home’ roaming is now available in a total of 11 markets.

“We want customers to get the most out of their devices at home or abroad. High roaming charges stop people enjoying their phones while they’re away and Feel At Home is the antidote to that,” Dyson commented.