LONDON Britain's biggest mobile operator, Everything Everywhere, has launched a new brand and network called EE for the country's first superfast mobile service, which it said would be available to 20 million people by Christmas.
The operator, a joint venture between France Telecom's FTE.PA Orange and Deutsche Telekom's (DTEGn.DE) T-Mobile, in August won approval to provide faster, next generation 4G services ahead of its rivals.
The new brand will launch in a few weeks, offering 4G mobile and fixed-line fibre broadband services, the company said on Tuesday.
It plans to roll out the service to 16 cities by Christmas, it said, providing coverage for a third of Britain's population.
The group, which is also taking the EE name, is retaining its existing Orange and T-Mobile brands.
"Orange and T-Mobile will continue to thrive," chief executive Olaf Swantee told reporters in London.
Its 4G offering will put it ahead of Vodafone (VOD.L), Telefonica's O2 (TEF.MC) and 3 0013.HK, who are having to wait until additional spectrum - airwaves that carry mobile signals - is auctioned by the government next year.
The operator is pinning its hopes on the new brand and the appeal of fast upload and download speeds to give it added momentum in the highly competitive British market, where it has only just started to perform as expected when it formed as a joint venture in 2010.
However the launch of EE does carry its own risks, possibly diverting customers from its original offerings and confusing consumers with the launch of another name to add to Orange and T-Mobile.
The company said it would also use the single EE name on its 700 stores, replacing the current mix of Orange, T-Mobile and Everything Everywhere shop signs.
EE said it would trial the 4G network, which will be based on the LTE (long-term evolution) standard, in London, Birmingham, Cardiff and Bristol.
It has already announced a 1.5 billion pound investment in its network over the next three years, and plans to have 4G coverage for 98 percent of the population by the end of 2014.
(Writing by Paul Sandle; Editing by Hugh Lawson)