UK market-leader EE is ramping up its 4G rollout, promising to switch on the new network in a further 17 towns and cities in Q1 next year.

EE lit up its first 4G networks in September and says it is on track to be live in 18 towns by year-end, two more than originally planned.

The operator was able to launch 4G services ahead of its rivals after Ofcom gave it permission to repurpose its existing 1800 MHz spectrum – a decision criticised at the time by other operators.

Fresh 4G spectrum in the 800 MHz and 2.6 GHz bands is being auctioned in the UK in January, which will allow rivals O2, Vodafone and 3 to launch rival services next Spring. EE is also signed up to participate in the auctions, which could see it acquire additional 4G airwaves.

EE says the network launches planned in Q1 will extend its 4G service to cover approximately 4 million more people across the UK.

Networks will be switched on in Bradford, Chelmsford, Coventry, Doncaster, Dudley, Leicester, Luton, Newport, Reading, Rotherham, St Albans, Sunderland, Sutton Coldfield, Walsall, Watford, West Bromwich and Wolverhampton.

Alongside 4G, the operator says it is continuing to upgrade its 3G network to support dual-carrier HSPA. The technology is expected to be live on 40 percent of the EE network by year end.