The introduction of 4G services could boost GDP by £75bn by the end of the decade, according to new research commissioned by Everything Everywhere.
The operator is aiming to be the first to launch 4G services, having applied to Ofcom to refarm 1800MHz spectrum for LTE use. It has launched a new website, 4Gbritain.org, which it said is for organisations and individuals to learn more about 4G services. However, O2, Vodafone and Three have all objected to Everything Everywhere's attempts to launch a 4G service ahead of the forthcoming spectrum auction.
The research, which was written by Capital Economics, said 4G services could lead to £5.5bn of direct private investment in the economy by 2015, create or safeguard 125,000 UK jobs, and provide superfast broadband to at least 10 million people who have no access to fixed-line services.
Capital Economics' Mark Pragnell said: 'The introduction of 4G mobile broadband will create substantial long-term benefits for the economy and consumers, ultimately boosting UK GDP by as much as half a percentage point. The near-term £5.5bn private industry investment we project is substantial – and opportune for the wider economy given the recent investment slump.'
Everything Everywhere CEO Olaf Swantee said: 'This research highlights the significant economic and social benefits that 4G will bring to the UK – already enjoyed in over 30 countries around the world. The UK has the highest levels of smartphone penetration and mobile commerce in Europe, and Britons deserve to have the best infrastructure in place to support this growth.'
Among the other organisations featured on the 4G Britain site are Virgin Mobile, an MVNO that uses Everything Everywhere's network, Huawei, and the Countryside Alliance.
Ovum analyst Mathew Howett said consumers will only have the full benefit of 4G services if there is competition between operators. He said Ofcom could impose a wholesale access obligation on the refarmed spectrum, which would allow other operators to launch services. Competitors could also buy the 1800MHz spectrum that Everything Everywhere must divest as part of the conditions of the merger of Orange and T-Mobile.
Howett said: 'At the moment the other operators do not hold sufficient quantities of 1800MHz spectrum to launch 4G in any compelling way. This would require Ofcom preventing Everything Everywhere deploying 4G at 1800MHz until it has completed the sale of this spectrum.'
He added: 'Ofcom now has the unenviable task of finalising the design of that auction. Unless there are some material changes to the current proposals (such as the removal of minimum spectrum portfolios), litigation seems almost inevitable. With no obvious way out of the deadlock any legal challenge could send everyone back to the drawing broad. Only a direction from the UK Government could keep the auction on track and this is something that it must now wake up to.'
Editor: Graeme Neill