Mobile firms' truce opens the way to super-fast broadband
Top three operators and watchdog seal key deal that will bring forward the roll-out of 4G in 2013
Wednesday 03 October 2012
Britain's three main mobile operators and the media regulator Ofcom have reached a crucial truce over much-delayed plans to roll out fourth-generation super-fast mobile broadband, known as 4G.
The bosses of Vodafone, O2 and EE, parent company of Orange and T-Mobile, met yesterday evening for talks with Ofcom at the Department of Culture, brokered by Secretary of State Maria Miller. The phone operators have agreed to plans for 4G to launch sooner than expected in May 2013, after an Ofcom-supervised auction of new airwave spectrum.
It is thought that, as part of the truce, Vodafone and O2 have decided not to challenge EE's controversial plans to launch 4G earlier, this autumn, on some of its existing spectrum.
There have been repeated legal threats over Ofcom's auction and, more recently, its controversial decision to grant EE permission to steal a march on rivals by launching 4G first. But all sides agreed to a legal standstill a month ago in a bid to avoid a full-blown challenge. Since then, Ofcom has been working to appease Vodafone and O2.
The regulator is offering to make available the spectrum sooner than previously planned – by May 2013, rather than October next year – and is promising its much-delayed auction will happen sooner.
Ms Miller said: "By speeding up the delivery of 4G in the UK, the Government is creating enormous opportunities. I am grateful for the efforts of all concerned in bringing forward the 4G timetable."
There has been speculation her department put pressure on Ofcom to move faster.
O2's chief executive Ronan Dunne said: "We're pleased that we've made progress but frustrated that it's taken so long."
The launch of 4G is crucial for Britain's digital economy because it will mean speeds up to 10 times faster than the present 3G service.
3G is becoming outmoded because of soaring mobile internet data usage on smartphones and tablets. The latest smartphones such as Apple's iPhone5 already make use of 4G.
The shadow Chancellor Ed Balls also put 4G high on the political agenda when he told this week's Labour party conference that he wanted to use the potential £4bn windfall from the spectrum auction to fund his spending promises. The 3G auction in 2000 raised more than £20bn but the mobile companies are expected to pay only a fraction of that for 4G.
Ofcom has come under fire for the slow pace of the auction, which has been more than four years in the planning. Other countries such as Italy and Germany have already leapt ahead with their roll-out of 4G.
But those close to Ofcom have insisted that even if the auction had happened sooner, Britain could not launch 4G properly until next year because the spectrum will not be available.
The airwaves have been occupied by existing users, notably the multi-channel TV service Freeview, but they are becoming free following TV's digital switchover. EE is able to roll out its own 4G service this autumn because it owns some 1800 Mhz frequency that is ready to use. Vodafone and O2 plan to use 800Mhz and 2.6Ghz frequency.
Emergency call 'started off dumb, but got pretty serious'
Britain First criticised for using actress's memory to draw attention to their 'hate-filled home page'
Animal welfare charities have urged the boy band to cut the scenes
Thought you'd seen it all after the Jeremy Paxman interview?
Greatest mystery about the hit BBC1 show is how it continues to be made at all, writes Grace Dent
"History is violent," says the US Army tank commander Don "Wardaddy" Collier
Argentinian scored 'rabona' wonder goal for Tottenham in Europa League – see it here
- 1 This 'woman calls police to order pizza' story isn't going where you're expecting
- 2 Watch what happened when food critics were unknowingly served McDonald's
- 3 Jimmy Carr's controversial Oscar Pistorius joke goes a bit too far at the Q Awards
- 4 Ottawa shootings: Bruce MacKinnon's cartoon is the perfect tribute to soldier Nathan Cirillo
- 5 Of course, teenage girls need role models – but not like beauty vlogger Zoella
Isis releases first video showing the stoning of woman accused of committing adultery as her father shouts 'don't call me Dad'
This 'woman calls police to order pizza' story isn't going where you're expecting
FCKH8: YouTube reinstates provocative anti-sexism video showing young girls swearing
Diwali: What is the festival of lights – and how is it celebrated around the world?
Jimmy Carr's controversial Oscar Pistorius joke goes a bit too far at the Q Awards
Of course, teenage girls need role models – but not like beauty vlogger Zoella
Cameron is warned 'no possibility' of UK reducing immigration and that bid to bring in quota on migrant workers would be illegal
Support for EU membership 'at highest level since 1991' with most Brits wanting to stay 'in'
Thousands with degenerative conditions classified as 'fit to work in future' – despite no possibility of improvement
Residents should throw a street party and mix with immigrant neighbours, councils told
Attacks on 'Ukip Calypso' show how skewed people’s priorities are
iJobs Money & Business
£24000 - £28000 per annum + bonus & benefits: Ashdown Group: IT Business Syste...
£50000 - £90000 per annum + benefits: Ampersand Consulting LLP: Markit EDM (CA...
£100 - 125k: Guru Careers: A CTO / Chief Technology Officer is needed to join ...
Competitive (DOE): Guru Careers: A COO / Chief Operating Officer is needed to ...