Finally, a significant move in the battle to bring 4G services to these shores. Ofcom’s decision to allow the UK’s largest operator Everything Everywhere to refarm its 1800MHz spectrum could soon see a large chunk of consumers enjoying the benefits of 4G.
However, rivals Three and Vodafone have been quick to voice their disapproval, accusing Ofcom of showing a disregard for consumers by giving Everything Everywhere a significant advantage in the race to implement 4G services.
Three feels the decision ‘distorts’ the competitive landscape and ultimately harms the consumer, while Vodafone said it was ‘frankly shocked’ that ‘the regulator has shown a careless disregard for the best interests of consumers, businesses and the wider economy through its refusal to properly regard the competitive distortion created by allowing one operator to run services before the ground has been laid for a fully competitive 4G market.’
Perhaps Ofcom could have been more judicious and approved refarming after the spectrum auction, which would have allowed all the operators to deploy LTE (4G) on a level playing field.
However, surely all parties must realise that the existing stalemate could not continue, as the impact of delaying 4G was no longer tolerable and actually harming the business community.
And would Ofcom have not weighed up the pros and cons before making such a decision for the benefit of both consumer and country? The regulator claimed that its decision would deliver ‘significant benefits to consumers’ and said there was ‘no material risk’ that the benefit would be outweighed by a distortion in competition.
But the frustration of Vodafone and Three is understandable, and it’s now up to these operators to get further justification from Ofcom, and then take whatever action they feel is appropriate. While any legal challenges against the decision would only delay the process, it is entirely reasonable that rival operators would seek to readdress any advantages gained by Everything Everywhere.
But the good news is that the impasse appears to have been broken and 4G could be on it way to the UK fairly soon.