Just a few weeks ago, UK carrier Everything Everywhere — which operates both the Orange and T-Mobile networks — issued a press release laying down a challenge to industry regulator Ofcom concerning the early launch of a 4G LTE network in the country.
Despite advances in 4G in the USA and other parts of Europe, the UK still operates a 3G HSDPA network, and up until now UK networks have been waiting for a government spectrum auction to buy up enough of the 800Mhz bandwidth to operate a new high-speed data system.
This auction has seen several delays and is currently expected to take place at the end of the year, however this proved to be unacceptable to Everything Everywhere, who told Ofcom it was ready to go with a 4G LTE service right now, by using a slice of its extensive 1800Mhz spectrum allocation.
Everything Everywhere’s press release was a bold move, as it put the ball firmly in Ofcom’s court, daring them to shut them down and face a potential public outcry. Yesterday Ofcom made a statement regarding Everything Everywhere’s plans, and to many people’s surprise, it was supportive.
Quoted as saying “[We have] considered whether allowing Everything Everywhere to use this spectrum in this way would distort competition, and provisionally concluded that it would not. And given the benefits this would bring to consumers, [we are] minded to allow this change of use.”
One step closer
With a go-ahead from the regulator, Everything Everywhere is almost clear to offer 4G LTE services to a percentage of its 27 million subscribers across the country. We say “almost,” as an inquiry will be held between now and 17 April to allow others to register any concerns.
The word “others” of course refers to the UK’s other carriers. As Everything Everywhere is the only network with such a large chunk of the 1800Mhz spectrum, other networks cannot put up a competing product until after the auctions at the end of the year, so it’s at least understandable if they do object.
According to The Guardian newspaper, Vodafone has already sent out a statement voicing its discontent, while Three — the nation’s smallest operator in terms of market share — is widely expected to also challenge the plan.
However, with Ofcom’s blessing already in place, the early deployment of 4G LTE in the UK has taken a considerable step forward this week, and it could take a lot more than some grumpy executives at competing networks to stop it.