By Claire West

Ofcom, the communications regulator, gives the following advice on buying a 4G phone.

4G mobile services for consumers are currently available through one operator, EE, which has rolled out services in some parts of the UK by using its existing spectrum capacity.

Competing services are likely to be made available in late spring 2013, following the completion of the 4G mobile auction.

4G mobile phones are built to work on specific types of frequencies.

Much like some cars are built to run on different types of fuels, if you try and put diesel into a car that’s designed for petrol, it won’t work.

Equally, a 4G phone will only work on frequencies it was designed to use.Mobile operators may use different frequencies to deliver 4G services.

Therefore, if you sign up to a 4G contract with one provider and then decide to switch to a SIM only contract with another provider, you may lose the 4G functionality of your phone.

If your provider does not already offer 4G; but you are thinking of buying a new handset in preparation for when it does, it is slightly more complicated than simply choosing a ‘4G ready’ phone.

This is because the phone might not be compatible with the frequencies that your provider will end up using to deliver 4G. One way of ‘future proofing’ your purchase could be to choose a handset that runs 4G on several different frequencies.

Think of this as the 4G equivalent of buying an old 2G phone with a ‘tri-band’ setting, which supports most of the 2G frequency bands used around the world. Or to use the analogy of the car, you would be buying a hybrid, which runs both on electricity and petrol.