Ofcom gives Everything Everywhere a headstart on 4G

Ofcom has given Everything Everywhere the green light to start rolling out 4G services using its existing radio spectrum, sparking howls of protest from rival operators.

Ofcom gives Everything Everywhere a headstart on 4G

Everything Everywhere has been lobbying for permission to use some of its 2G 1,800MHz spectrum for 4G services – ahead of the main 4G auctions for 800MHz and 2.6GHz spectrum.

The project was delayed after opposition from rivals, but has now been cleared.

“Ofcom has today approved an application by the mobile phone operator Everything Everywhere to use its existing 1,800MHz spectrum to deliver 4G services,” the telecoms regulator said in a statement.

The regulator has shown a careless disregard for the best interests of consumers, businesses and the wider economy through

“Ofcom has concluded that varying Everything Everywhere’s 1,800 MHz licences now will deliver significant benefits to consumers, and that there is no material risk that those benefits will be outweighed by a distortion of competition. Delaying doing so would therefore be to the detriment of consumers.”

With rivals unable to fall back on existing capacity, they will have to wait until next year before they can even bid on spectrum to start rolling out services in the delayed 4G action process – leaving carriers up in arms.

“We are frankly shocked that Ofcom has reached this decision,” said a Vodafone spokesperson. “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.”

Competition confusion

According to Vodafone, the move will give both Everything Everywhere and 3 an advantage in the market, with the latter reportedly interested in buying a slice of Everything Everywhere’s 1,800MHz allocation.

“Ofcom’s timing is particularly bizarre given the reports that Everything Everywhere is currently in discussions to sell some of its spectrum to 3, which Ofcom has previously been at such pains to protect with its over-engineering of the 4G auction,” Vodafone said. “This means the balance in the auction will fundamentally change.”

Vodafone also criticised Everything Everywhere and 3 for slowing down the auction process, claiming that Ofcom has now rewarded the very carriers that it blames for the delay-causing friction during 4G negotiations.

“The regulator has spent several years refusing to carry out a fair and open auction,” Vodafone said. “Now its decision today has granted the two most vociferous complainants during that entire process a massive incentive to further delay it.”

According to Ofcom, it has issued “varied licences to EE which authorise LTE services from 11 September 2012″.

“This means that EE can launch LTE services using its 1,800MHz spectrum at any point from that date, although the precise timing of any launch is a commercial decision for Everything Everywhere,” the regulator said.

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