O2, the UK subsidiary of Spanish operator Telefonica, is expected to launch its 4G LTE service in the UK tomorrow, which would finally provide a challenger to EE’s sole offering in the market.

Update: The launch date has been confirmed for August 29.

According to multiple industry insiders, the company will launch the service on Thursday with SIM-only plans starting from £26 per month.

While it’s apparently being announced tomorrow, it won’t be live until August 29, we’ve heard.

The switch on will be carried out in two stages, with London and either Bradford and/or Leeds in the first phase, with ten more towns and cities to follow before the end of the year.

According to the tipsters, who irritatingly couldn’t provide any data specifics for plans whatsoever (though it is hard to imagine the use of a 4G plan with less than a 500MB allowance), the deals will also include access to O2′s network of WiFi hotspots and some sort of tie in with 12 months of a free music service, perhaps live recordings from its O2 venues.

Our sources also suggest that there will be enterprise and 4G dongle plans too, but couldn’t shed any light on the specifics.

Although at this stage an unconfirmed rumor, David Johnson, General Manager Devices for O2 in the UK said the following just yesterday alongside the release of O2′s ‘Fit for 4G’ campaign, the emphasis is ours (video of its ‘thumbells’ below):

“We know our customers are using their thumbs more than ever. Data use is experiencing exponential growth and with 4G just around the corner, we want to make sure our customers are ready to make the most of what 4G will offer them.”

If accurate, the arrival of a challenger for EE’s standing in the 4G market place is long overdue. The rival network got a significant head start on the likes of O2, Vodafone and Three when Ofcom allowed it to refarm its 1800MHz spectrum to use it for 4G services. Since then it has been the only nationwide operator to offer 4G download and upload speeds to consumers.

Vodafone has said that its 4G service would arrive before the end of the summer, while smaller rival Three has said that it would wait for its other networks to launch first and aims to bring its own to market towards the end of the year.

We’ll have to wait until tomorrow to find out if our tipsters were correct, but we’d openly welcome a more competitive 4G market in the UK.

Featured Image Credit – AFP/Getty Images