Communications regulator Ofcom's decision to permit mobile operator Everything Everywhere (EE) to use its existing 1800MHz spectrum to deliver 4G services has been slammed by rival operators O2 and Three.
Ofcom was due to make a decision on the fate of the 1800MHz spectrum after bowing to pressure from EE's rivals to undertake a consultation period, which ended on 8 May 2012.
"Following a consultation, Ofcom has concluded that varying EE's 1800MHz licences now will deliver significant benefits to consumers, and that 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," Ofcom said in a statement.
In addition, Ofcom has authorised EE to launch 4G services from 11 September 2012, while rival mobile operators O2, Vodafone and Three have to wait until the 4G bidding process is completed, a process that is only set to begin in early 2013.
O2 and Three have voiced their concerns to Computing, as they believe that the decision will give EE an unfair competitive advantage.
"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," an O2 spokesperson said.
A Three spokesperson said: "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."
Meanwhile, EE said that the decision to make 4G available this year was good news for the UK.
"Consumers will soon be able to benefit from the much greater mobile speeds that 4G will deliver. 4G will drive investment, employment and innovation and we look forward to making it available later this year, delivering superfast mobile broadband to the UK," it said.
Last month, an EE spokesperson told Computing that it hoped to roll out 4G services before the end of the year. The spokesperson said that EE would be more specific about a launch date once it was given the green light by Ofcom.