Ofcom, the independent regulator for the British communications industries, has today approved an application from Everything Everywhere to use its existing 1800 MHz spectrum to deliver 4G or LTE services.
Everything Everywhere is the UK’s largest mobile operator, comprising of Orange and T-Mobile. The company applied for variation of its 1800 MHz licences in November 2011 to provide LTE services in those frequencies.
Everything Everywhere’s newly issued varied licences that authorise LTE services take effect from September 11, so it’s possible that the company could begin offering 4G as early as next month. This date is no coincidence as Apple is expected to announce LTE support in the next iPhone at it’s rumoured September 12 event.
Everything Everywhere’s competing operators must wait until at least 2013 to launch competing 4G services when additional spectrum in the 800 MHz and 2.6 GHz bands is due to be auctioned.
While Ofcom do admit that Everything Everywhere will have a competitive advantage until the official spectrum auction takes place, it does not believe that this advantage will be considerable enough to affect consumers.
“Although we consider it likely that EE will enjoy a competitive advantage during the period before other operators are able to launch their own LTE services, we consider on the evidence available that any such advantage is unlikely to result in an enduring advantage which distorts competition to the detriment of consumers. Our assessment takes account of the impending release of additional spectrum in the 800 MHz and 2.6 GHz bands which will enable other operators to launch competing LTE services during the course of 2013.”
Needless to say competing mobile operators in the UK are not pleased. Vodafone issued a statement this morning stating that it is “shocked” by Ofcom’s decision and that the regulator has “shown a careless disregard for the best interests of consumers, businesses and the wider economy”.