Ofcom must play fair over 4G, says Everything Everywhere

By Sooraj Shah
29 Mar 2012 View Comments
Smartphone user

It would be inappropriate to prevent mobile network Everything Everywhere from providing 4G LTE technology to UK customers, according to the network's senior adviser, Kip Meek.

According to Three, one of Everything Everywhere's rival networks, Everything Everywhere has the biggest (43 per cent) spectrum share in the market, while Vodafone (25 per cent), O2 (22 per cent) and Three (10 per cent) are lagging behind.

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This has allowed Everything Everywhere to apply to use its existing 2G spectrum to deliver 4G services, potentially by the end of the year, while other operators have to wait until the outcome of the 4G spectrum auction, which is also set to take place at the end of 2012.

Speaking at an event in Westminster this week, Meek said that when T-Mobile and Orange merged to create Everything Everywhere, it gave up a quarter of its spectrum and it would therefore be unfair for regulator Ofcom to stop the network launching 4G LTE technology this year.

"It would not be fair for Ofcom to say 4G should not be launched in the final quarter of 2012 and instead to be launched in the first quarter of 2013.

"In the interest of consumers, we are already behind globally in LTE technology and it would be inappropriate to deny customers the technology when it could be available," he said.

The CEO of rival network Three, David Dyson, said that an early 4G launch for Everything Everywhere would give it an unfair advantage.

"If Everything Everywhere got their spectrum liberated, it would use it to its advantage. Customers would have to pay a reasonable premium for the service and it wouldn't be a broad proposition but a niche one. This will give them marketing power," he said.

Dyson believes that Ofcom should prevent Everything Everywhere from launching 4G before any of the other operators.

"They should not be able to use spectrum for 4G services. Ofcom should have waited until after the auction [to consider this]. A lot of spectrum should be available [to all operators] next year, which is when Everything Everywhere should be able to use 4G LTE technology," he said.

Head of spectrum at Telefonica O2, Nicholas Blades, said O2 shared the concerns of Three but also had concerns about Three.

Blades questioned Dyson on reports that Three and Virgin Media had signed a contract to provide 4G services six months after Everything Everywhere.

Dyson said that there were on-going discussions taking place.

Earlier this month, Everything Everywhere submitted an application to Ofcom to use its existing 2G spectrum to deliver 4G services that give mobile networks a more efficient capacity at higher speeds.

At the time, Ofcom said that it had "provisionally concluded that [Everything Everywhere delivering 4G services] would not" distort competition.

However, the communications regulator has bowed to pressure from rival networks and has since extended the consultation period until 8 May 2012.

"We have decided to extend this period following requests from stakeholders for more time to respond," it said in a statement.

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