Ofcom has today approved an application by the mobile phone operator Everything Everywhere (EE) to use its existing 1800 MHz spectrum to deliver 4G services.1
Following a consultation, Ofcom has concluded that varying EE's 1800 MHz licences now will deliver significant benefits to consumers, and that there is no material risk that those benefits will be outweighed by a distortion of competition. Delaying doing so would therefore be to the detriment of consumers.
The decision takes account of the forthcoming release of additional spectrum in the 800 MHz and 2.6 GHz bands, in an auction process set to begin later this year, which will enable other operators to launch competing 4G services from next year.
In parallel with this decision, Ofcom has now issued varied licences to EE which authorise LTE services from 11 September 2012. This means that EE can launch LTE services using its 1800 MHz spectrum at any point from that date, although the precise timing of any launch is a commercial decision for Everything Everywhere.
Other carriers are extremely upset with the decision, reports The Verge.
Vodafone says, "We are frankly shocked that Ofcom has reached this decision. The regulator has shown a careless disregard for the best interests of consumers, businesses and the wider economy through its refusal to properly regard the competitive distortion created by allowing one operator to run services before the ground has been laid for a fully competitive 4G market."
O2 says, "We are hugely disappointed with today's announcement, which will mean the majority of customers will be excluded from the first wave of digital services. This decision undermines the competitive environment for 4G in the UK."
Three says, "Liberalisation of 2G spectrum to date has distorted the competitive landscape in the UK, which ultimately harms consumers. Further liberalisation without addressing competition issues could make that distortion worse."
While rival companies are understandably upset. Customers will have access to a faster LTE network this year rather than waiting until late next year. The U.K. auction for 4G spectrum is expected to take place in 2013, followed by decisions in mid 2013, and services to launch in late 2013.