Everything Everywhere to launch UK 4G LTE in October

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Everything Everywhere (EE) will launch superfast mobile internet in October, according to Sky sources, which would make it the first UK provider to offer the network.

Earlier today telecoms regulator Ofcom approved an application by the company that owns Orange and T-Mobile to use its existing spectrum to deliver 4G.

But EE’s rivals, who have to wait until the end of this year to buy new licences in an auction of frequencies, say the decision gives the company an unfair advantage.

The source told Sky that the company plans to start dropping the Orange and T-Mobile brands from around March next year, with existing customers being migrated to EE.

The company applied for two trademarks – 4G Everything Everywhere and 4GEE – in May.

In response, an EE spokesperson said:

“Everything Everywhere confirms that we are planning to launch a new brand in the UK later this year. This new brand will sit alongside our existing brands Orange and T-Mobile. We will reveal more information on our exciting plans in due course.”

Ofcom gave EE the go-ahead to launch 4G – which is seen as crucial for video, gaming and downloading on your phone – any time after September 11 this year. It said that allowing EE to use its existing 1800 MHz spectrum in this way will “deliver significant benefits to consumers”.

“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.”

Vodafone’s reaction to today’s news has been quite blunt, with a statement from the company expressing shock at the decision and its impending consequences:

“We are frankly shocked that Ofcom has reached this decision. 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.”
With Ofcom’s assent now in hand, Everything Everywhere can proceed with offering LTE connectivity as soon as September 11th, provided its network is in fact ready to handle the load.

An O2 spokesperson has contributed his company’s perspective on today’s news:

“We are hugely disappointed with today’s announcement, which will mean the majority of customers will be excluded from the first wave of digital services. This decision undermines the competitive environment for 4G in the UK.”

Three’s statement has been somewhat less direct, but voices similar concerns:

“Liberalisation of 2G spectrum to date has distorted the competitive landscape in the UK, which ultimately harms consumers. Further liberalisation without addressing competition issues could make that distortion worse.”

What is clear is that the other networks need to wake up and stop making excuses for why EE have an unfair advantage. The nature of any business is that if you can’t compete you go out of business or haemorrhage money – just look at RIM – competition is a part of business and if the other networks can’t compete on speed then they need to compete on pricing of existing services.

EE may have benefited from the merger of T-Mobile and Orange but that abundance of extra spectrum meant that using it for 4G was a smart business move to make and the other networks should have seen it coming.

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