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Vodafone Slam Ofcom UK for Letting T-Mobile and Orange Launch 4G in 2012

Monday, March 19th, 2012 (1:28 pm) - Score 763

Last week’s proposal by the communications regulator, Ofcom, to allow mobile operators T-Mobile and Orange UK (Everything Everywhere) to launch a new generation of 4G superfast Mobile Broadband services over their existing 1800MHz (2G/3G) radio spectrum (here) has been heavily criticised by rival Vodafone, which suggested that the regulator had “[taken] leave of its senses“.

Vodafone’s boss claims that the move, which would effectively allow both operators to launch a 4G service before the end of 2012, could give their rivals at least a year’s head start. Vodafone also fears that Everything Everywhere could then “bog down” the wider 4G (800MHz and 2.6GHz) spectrum auction process (due to get underway in Q4-2012) in litigation and thus gain a competitive advantage by doing so.

Vodafone UK’s CEO, Guy Laurence, said (Sunday Times):

[Ofcom] is all but agreeing to grant the largest player in the market a headstart on the next generation of mobile internet services.”

Mobile operator Three UK issued a similar warning about both O2 and Vodafone last year (here). But Ofcom stated last week that it saw “no material risk of a distortion of competition if EE is permitted now to use the 1800MHz band“. Meanwhile, back in 2010 (here), Everything Everywhere stated that it had “decided to withdraw our threatened legal action and are content to take our chances when it comes to influencing the rules for future spectrum auctions“.

The government’s Secretary of State for the Department of Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS), Jeremy Hunt MP, last year warned mobile operators to “put aside competitive differences and work together“. A related report from the UK governments Commons Culture, Media and Sport Committee (CCMSC) later condemned the “infighting” and “lack of co-operation” from mobile operators for holding up the auction (here).

Ofcom’s 1800MHz approval is still subject to a short consultation until 17th April 2012, although the regulator is under direction from the EU and few expect them to change their tune. By contrast the first 800MHz and 2.6GHz based 4G/LTE services aren’t expected to surface until late 2013 or early 2014.

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By Mark Jackson
Mark is a professional technology writer, IT consultant and computer engineer from Dorset (England), he also founded ISPreview in 1999 and enjoys analysing the latest telecoms and broadband developments. Find me on Twitter, , Facebook and Linkedin.
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7 Responses
  1. Phil says:

    Good move by T-Mobile/Orange as I hate Vodafone, what is your problem ? Iagree with ofcom and welcome the move!

    1. Andrew Crawford says:

      YOu might hate vodafone i dnt particular liek them, but it is a unfair advantage to the otehr two, just like ofcom allow sky to monoppolise the tv market, there does seem to be favourtism at times to certain things but at the end of the day it is the consumer that is made to pay,wha ti think they should do for current 2g/3g and the futre 4g is not to have each operator having the reown network but to havea shared network that is used by all operators and attempts to get 100% coverage witht he best possible speeds achivable esicpaly for 3g/4g

  2. Max says:

    These carriers need to stop their petty arguing. 4G is already to late, anything to get the service to end users sooner is a great thing. Instead of other carriers moaning about this supposed unfair advantage, maybe they should spend their time coming up with ways to attract new customers and compete against the 4G service.

  3. Mark Jackson says:

    Ofcom doesn’t have much of a choice here anyway. The EU set a decision for this so they’re just following what applies to all of Europe’s other states too.

    So far as I can see it looks like EE has already come to some degree of backroom understanding with the government/Ofcom over the future auctions and sale of some 1800MHz, so Vodafone’s fears probably won’t be such a problem.

    On top of that 1800MHz is better for urban areas and the UK 4G kit still won’t be mature or widely enough available this year for EE to cause a sensation. Now re-purposing 900MHz for 4G, which O2 might well demand in due course, would arguably be more controversial; especially since O2 hasn’t dropped the legal option.

  4. dragoneast says:

    Huff and puff. I suspect that ordinary consumers have almost nothing to do with it. Voda have always been the main business provider, a market which Orange have always been desperate to break into; so the accountants and marketing people will throw a hissy fit, and perhaps the shareholders (advised by the same lot) too. That matters.

  5. one2one says:

    As someone who worked for Mercury one2one back in ’94, Vodaphone wasn’t too concerned about competitive advantage when slow rolling site share agreements and making it difficult for us (and Orange) to access sites etc. to allow us into the mobile marketplace in the first place. What’s stopping Vodaphone refarming their existing spectrum as well – or is it sour grapes because they didn’t think about doing it first?

  6. zemadeiran says:

    Vodafone.pt have already announced and launched their 4g service in Portugal.

    All the main operators have announced their 4g services which incidentally cost an average of 25 euros per month with NO download limits.

    Announced speeds are 100mbps down and 50mbps up.

    What a effing shambles, the poorest country in Europe already has one of the best broadband infrastructure.

    Good luck to EE, compete or gtfu.

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