Ofcom gives EE go-ahead to roll out 4G this year


Everything Everything wins provisional permission to re-farm 1800MHz spectrum to deliver LTE services by end of year, but rivals given four weeks to raise objections

Regulator Ofcom has given the green light to Everything Everywhere’s plans to use its 1800MHz spectrum for 4G LTE services that could be rolled out to consumers before the end of the year.

Last month, EE CEO Olaf Swantee announced that the operator had applied for permission to liberalise the 1800MHz spectrum, and if successful it would be “in a position to begin the roll out of 4G before the end of the year”.

Ofcom said that it could see no problem in principle with the plans, but it has given rival operators Vodafone, O2 and Three four weeks to respond with any objections.

In a statement, Ofcom said that it had “considered whether allowing Everything Everywhere to use this spectrum in this way would distort competition, and provisionally concluded that it would not”.

The regulator concluded that it was “minded to allow this change of use” for the 1800MHz spectrum.

Vodafone responded rapidly, saying that it believed allowing EE to use the spectrum it already owned to roll out LTE before the auction of 800 MHz and 2400 MHz spectrum scheduled for the end of the year would hinder competition.

Ofcom is also expected to use the auction to force EE to give up some of the spectrum in the 1800 MHz range that it currently holds.

A Vodafone spokesman said: “It comes as a surprise that the regulator is now considering giving the largest player in the market permission to use its existing spectrum for 4G services before the rules for the auction have even been concluded or it has divested spectrum as required by the European Commission.

“We share the regulator’s desire to see the next generation of mobile internet services rolled out quickly and placed within the reach of many more people in rural areas.

“But we seriously doubt that consumers’ best interests will be served by giving one company a significant head start before any of its competitors have a clear path to 4G.”

Vodafone and O2 could theoretically use their existing 900MHz spectrum to roll out LTE services, however Vodafone says that this is not feasible given the lack of equipment for carrying LTE signals in that spectrum.