4G live for 'thousands' — but not all — customers in London, Manchester, Birmingham; staged rollout will bring LTE to 1.5 million by end of February

Without any sort of official announcement, British carrier Three's 4G LTE service has gone live for some customers in London, Birmingham and Manchester today. Based on tweets from Three's official Twitter account, "a few thousand" customers in these three cities have been given access to the new LTE service, and the operator has told Android Central that by the end of February 1.5 million customers with 4G devices will be able to use the network. That's the target timeframe for allowing anyone with a capable handset to use Three's 4G, but right now access seems to be determined by the luck of the draw.

The reason for this, Three tell us, is to ensure the smoothest possible rollout for its 4G network, though a side-effect of this staged rollout has been a stream of tweets from disgruntled Three subscribers. The carrier previously committed to a launch in London, Manchester and Birmingham in December, but made no mention of its plans to restrict this to a small number of customers at the get-go.

Three says it plans to clear up some of the confusion in a blog post in the near future. Naturally, we'll keep you posted as well. Meanwhile, if you're on Three in any of the launch cities, hit the comments and let us know if you've managed to get on the 4G network.