Vodafone and Everything Everywhere have rejected communications minister Ed Vaizey’s claims that mobile operators are to blame for delays to the roll out of the UK’s 4G network.
Speaking at Intellect’s Future of Entertainment conference in central London last week, Vaizey sought to explain the delays to the roll out of a 4G service.
He said: ‘It is worth remembering, for those who ask why it’s taking so long [to launch 4G]… Ofcom has to undergo an exhaustive consultation process, because every single mobile phone company has threatened to sue Ofcom if they don’t get it right.
‘If you want to complain about the delay, don’t look at Ofcom or the Government. Stop your nearest mobile phone operator and ask them what’s causing the delay.’
Responding to Vaizey’s comments, Everything Everywhere denied it had threatened Ofcom with litigation. In a statement, the operator said: ‘Everything Everywhere has no appetite for delaying the spectrum auction, nor any appetite for litigation against Ofcom. We haven’t threatened Ofcom with litigation at any stage in this auction process.
‘We strongly believe that we need 4G in Britain as soon as possible, as the UK is already behind 38 other countries with a commercial LTE roll out.
‘Everything Everywhere is investing and innovating to bring 4G to the UK as soon as possible, and has requested permission from Ofcom to launch 4G on a small scale this year, using its existing 1800MHz spectrum.’
Vodafone and O2 recently announced plans to share a network that would give them a total of 18,500 masts, which they say will extend current 2G and 3G coverage. It will also enable the masts to support 4G technology in readiness for the Coalition Government’s approval of 4G licences.
A Vodafone spokesman said: ‘Vodafone UK supports the ambition of both Ofcom and the Government to see competitive 4G services rolled out as fast and as far as possible. While some mobile phone companies may have threatened the auction process with litigation, Vodafone UK has made no such public threats.
‘We would like to see a fair and open auction of the spectrum needed to run these services carried out as soon as possible.
‘We believe a competitive market for 4G services will bring significant benefits to consumers, businesses and the wider UK economy.’
O2 said it had nothing further to add to the statement it made earlier this month, in which it said: ‘We welcome Ofcom’s proposal for the spectrum auction and agree with many of their key points. We support the combinatorial clock auction structure which prevents strategic bidding, i.e. where bidders acquire spectrum to prevent someone else from getting it. We also support the proposed spectrum caps which will safeguard consumer interest and prevent any one bidder acquiring a dominant position in these scarce resources.
‘However, we believe that the proposed spectrum floors are a state aid and are therefore illegal under EU law. The spectrum floors would distort the auction process, allowing all bidders, except Vodafone and O2, to potentially acquire spectrum at discounted prices. Ofcom’s own figures suggest this effect could cost taxpayers £1bn.’
A spokesman for Ed Vaizey at the Department for Culture, Media and Sport said: ‘In December 2010 the Government acted to end years of litigation and delay to the auction of 800MHz and 2.6GHz spectrum.
‘The Government made a legal direction for Ofcom to proceed with the auction.
‘As Ed Vaizey said in his speech to the Intellect conference, the Government and Ofcom have worked to make the auction happen as soon as possible.’