Major UK mobile phone operator, EE – formally known as Everything Everywhere – claims it is poised to offer consumers in the UK the opportunity to connect to the country’s first fourth generation (4G) mobile broadband network.

EE – which owns both the T-Mobile and Orange mobile brands – says the new 4G network signal is in test mode and should be accessible to consumers in 16 UK cities by the important pre-Christmas shopping period. Cities include London, Manchester, Edinburgh and Bristol.

The company says it anticipates the service being initially available to around a third of all UK citizens – with coverage eventually extending to around 98 per cent of the country by 2014.

According to EE, the new 4G service will be capable of receiving signals five times faster than the current third generation (3G) service. At around eight Mbps, many observers agree the speeds would enable films of HD quality to be downloaded in just a few minutes, facilitate the uninterrupted streaming of live Internet TV programming, enable video calls to be made and provide for the quick downloading of sizeable email attachments.

In order to access the new 4G service, most consumers would need to purchase a new mobile handset – with EE citing the Samsung Galaxy SIII LTE and the newest Nokia Lumia handsets as among those capable of receiving 4G signals.

However, the prospective roll-out of the 4G service could be delayed if rival network operator O2 follows up on its threats to challenge Ofcom’s go-ahead for EE’s 4G launch and – in the meantime – asks the Competition Appeals Tribunal to block the service.