First 4G network could launch this month after peace talks

Oct 2, 2012

Plans to bring airspace auction forward could stave off legal threat from EE rivals

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4G NETWORKS could launch in the UK within weeks if peace talks between the Government, Ofcom and mobile providers go according to plan today.

Operator Everything Everywhere plans to roll out its service by the end of this month, and the Government could avert a legal challenge from rivals Vodafone and O2 if it offers to make airspace available to them sooner than planned, reports The Daily Telegraph.

Everything Everywhere which owns both Orange and T-Mobile has now rebranded as EE. It is in a position to offer a 4G service before its rivals as it merged the two mobile services in 2010 and was given permission by Ofcom to reuse some of its spectrum for a 4G service.

While EE hopes to have 4G operating in 16 British cities by the end of the year, other providers will have to wait for an auction of spare airspace before they can launch rival services.

Plans to bring that auction forward so that O2 and Vodafone will have a 4G network running in May rather than October next year could prompt them to abandon plans for a legal challenge, even though they are aggrieved that EE has been given a headstart in the 4G race, and will be the only provider offering 4G on the new iPhone 5.

Ofcom has defended its decision to allow EE to launch its service before its rivals. It said a delay would have been "to the detriment of consumers".

The auction of the 4G radio spectrum has become a political hot potato after Shadow Chancellor Ed Balls announced plans at the Labour Party Conference this week to use the money raised, as much as £4bn, to stimulate the economy through affordable housing and help for homebuyers.

The 4G service, which should be available across 98 per cent of the country by 2014, offers a much faster internet connection than mobile devices currently have. It allows uninterrupted web access, high definition movies to be downloaded in minutes and users can watch live TV without buffering.

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