UK telecommunications regulator Ofcom has granted Everything Everywhere -- the company formed by the merger of Orange and T-Mobile -- a license to deploy 4G LTE services on its existing 1800MHz spectrum. The change to its 1800MHz license puts it at a potential advantage over other UK carriers, which must wait for 800MHz and 2600MHz bands to be auctioned off next year before they can roll out their 4G services. EE is also reportedly in the late stages of talks with rival network Three regarding the sale of some of its 1800MHz spectrum to the fourth-largest network, potentially opening the door for Three to run 4G services on these bands, too.
In a statement released today, Ofcom acknowledged that the 4G head-start would provide Tmo and Orange with a short-term advantage, but shrugged off assertions that it would result in any long-term “distortion” of competition.
The change in license terms kicks in from next month, and previously-released timetables indicate Everything Everywhere could have a fledgling 4G network by late 2012 or early 2013.
It’s exciting news for Orange and T-Mobile subscribers, as well as UK mobile buyers who’ve been frustrated by the legal bickering that’s held up the 800/2600MHz spectrum auction several years already. However, the decision has already provoked the ire of rival networks, with Vodafone UK releasing a statement accusing the regulator of displaying “careless disregard” for British consumers.