Ofcom will 'robustly defend' 4G position against O2

By Sooraj Shah
31 Aug 2012 View Comments
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Communications regulator Ofcom will "robustly defend" its position on allowing mobile operator Everything Everywhere (EE) to use its 1800MHz spectrum to deliver 4G services, against any potential legal action.

Last week, Ofcom permitted EE to use its 2G spectrum to deliver 4G services, meaning that it could launch 4G services from 11 September 2012, while the likes of O2 and Vodafone have to wait until the 4G bidding process is completed; a process that is only set to begin in early 2013.

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The Guardian had reported that rival mobile network O2 will seek legal action against Ofcom after it had submitted an appeal to the regulator's decision to the Competition Appeals Tribunal (CAT).

In response to any potential legal action, Ofcom said that it was prepared for a court battle.

"Allowing the early introduction of 4G services in the UK will deliver significant benefits to consumers. We are ready for any potential litigation of our decision to allow this and we will robustly defend our position if required," an Ofcom spokesperson said.

As part of the appeal, O2 may attempt to delay Everything Everywhere from delivering 4G services to UK customers.

These aren't the first fears for legal action to hamper the delivery of 4G services as mobile operators have reportedly been quick to threaten legal action if the 4G battle does not go in their favour.

Last week, a Vodafone spokesperson told Computing that it was concerned that there would be delays to the 4G auction, as EE was allowed to liberalise its 1800Mhz spectrum and sell spectrum to rival Three to use.

The spokesperson said that this meant that Everything Everywhere and Three could take legal action to change the auction rules to prevent other mobile operators from catching up to deliver 4G services.

"The worry is that both Everything Everywhere and more importantly Three now have an incentive to litigate and delay the 4G auction – Everything Everywhere because it will extend the length of its competitive advantage and Three because with 1800MHz 'in the bank' it can try again to get reserved 800MHz spectrum by litigating to change the auction rules," he claimed.

O2 and EE declined to comment on any potential legal challenge, while the CAT also stated that it could not comment.

Mobile operators have been at war in regards to 4G and its delivery since its inception. The main sticking point has been the 1800MHz spectrum that Everything Everywhere has wanted to repurpose – something that Three, O2 and Vodafone have spoken out against in the past, and are still against as they believe it gives EE an unfair advantage to roll out 4G services before they can.

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