Just a day after Culture Secretary Jeremy Hunt promised the UK will have the fastest broadband of any major European country by 2015, telecoms regulator Ofcom has now granted approval to Everything Everywhere – owners of Orange and T-Mobile – that will allow the company to launch 4G ahead of schedule.
The mobile network operator is expected to utilise its existing bandwidth to grab an early lead in the roll-out of 4G LTE. But while Ofcom explains how the decision will deliver “significant benefits” to consumers, and Everything Everywhere has greeted the approval with open arms, saying “4G will drive investment, employment and innovation….[it’s] great news for the UK”; rival competitors Vodafone, Three and O2 have reacted badly to the move.
Ofcom’s approval of the application submitted by Everything means the company will be allowed to offer 4G services from September 11th, just weeks away. Coincidental or not, that date is hugely significant for the matter-of-factness of what is expected to come just 24 hours after: the long-awaited reveal of the iPhone 5. While pin-pointing features of the phone is still a fool's errand, it wouldn't be a shock - in fact, it's almost certain - to see Apple opt for 4G capability. It'd be a massive catch for Everything were a 4G-capable next-generation of iPhone to launch hand-in-hand with consumers eager to try out new LTE services.
A flock to its networks would surely follow, something its rivals are understandably less than enthused about.
Because Everything Everywhere's competitors have to wait a little while longer to seize 4G bandwidth of their own in an auction of frequencies expected to take place later on this year, by which time Everything could have seized an invaluable early advantage. Vodafone were the first to hit, describing how it was “frankly shocked” by Ofcom's ruling.
In a full statement from the company, it said “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.”
O2 said it was “hugely disappointed” with the announcement, which it explained “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.”
I am the Founder and Editor-in-chief of New Rising Media. You can follow me on Twitter @MrJasonEngland.