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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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