Several UK mobile network providers, the UK’s communications regulator Ofcom, and other government officials have announced a deal that will accelerate the rollout of 4G LTE services throughout the UK. The settlement means carriers like O2 and Vodafone will likely be able to start deploying their 4G LTE networks in early 2013, about six months earlier than originally thought.
UK carrier EE was previously granted permission to use some of their existing 1800 MHz spectrum for 4G LTE network purposes and they were expected to start that rollout this fall. However, other UK carriers like O2 and Vodafone had been threatening to launch legal action claiming the permission to use the spectrum for 4G services was improper and that EE was being given an unfair advantage. Ofcom has now agreed to accelerate the approval process for 4G LTE services for other carriers after a planned January action of old analog television spectrum occurs in January 2013.
With the agreement, EE is anticipated to announce the imminent launch of their 4G LTE network. They have indicated they have plans to deploy the service to 16 UK cities before the end of the year and to 98% of the UK by 2014. Other carriers will be behind with their deployments which should now occur sometime in early 2013, but with the agreement the head start that EE gets will not be as great.
The settlement means the UK will be able to start to catch back up to other countries that already have 4G LTE services well established. As Ed Richards, Ofcom’s chief executive notes, consumers are the big winners as they will not have to wait for “a considerable period for the next generation of mobile broadband services.”