While the United States sees dozens of new cities getting upgraded to 4G networks each month, on the other side of the Atlantic, things are proceeding at a more glacial pace. In the United Kingdom, for example, the auction of 4G licences on the 800MHz and 2600MHz bands to network operators still hasn’t taken place, and has been pushed back until next year.
While UK operators have been engaged in small-scale 4G trials for the last 18 months or so, the lethargic pace of progress on the licensing and deployment of 4G networks has been a source of irritation for the carriers. Not all have been content to sit around complaining though. Earlier this year, Everything Everywhere – the joint venture between Orange UK and T-Mobile UK – formally applied to the communications regulator, Ofcom, to convert some of its existing 1800MHz spectrum to provide 4G services this year.
As The Next Web reports, Ofcom has now approved that application, meaning that Everything Everywhere will be able to launch 4G LTE services in the UK before the end of the year. In a statement, the company unsurprisingly hailed Ofcom’s decision, claiming that “4G will drive investment, employment and innovation and we look forward to making it available later this year, delivering superfast mobile broadband to the UK”.
But not everyone is celebrating. The Verge reported Vodafone’s rather angry response to the news:
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 also weighed in with this statement:
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.”
Ofcom’s approval gives Everything Everywhere the freedom to use some of its 1800MHz spectrum for 4G services from September 11 this year – fortuitous timing, given that Apple is widely expected to announce its new 4G LTE-capable iPhone on the very next day.