Operators welcome new 4G timetable

Operators welcome new 4G timetable

Operators have welcomed the deal struck after talks with Culture Secretary Maria Miller and Ofcom for an earlier rollout of 4G next spring.

Yesterday's meeting also led to a pledge by O2, Vodafone and Three not to launch legal action against EE's imminent plans to launch 4G, or against the next generation spectrum auction.

EE, who was given the go-ahead by Ofcom to launch its 4G service this year, said: 'We welcome the outcome of today's [Tuesday's] meeting with the Culture Secretary and Ofcom, and thank them for their support in removing any threat of litigation and driving the speedy introduction of next generation 4G mobile networks for Britain.

'We now can turn our attention to setting and announcing a launch date for our service, which we will do so imminently.'

O2, who accused of Ofcom not allowing a level playing field to exist in the race for 4G, said: 'We welcome the statment from the DCMS and are pleased to have influenced the process to bring the date forward for universal access to 4G.'

Vodafone UK, also welcomed the news after earlier accusations of unfairness: 'We welcome the constructive work that Ofcom, the Government and the industry has undertaken over the past four weeks. There is still a lot of work to be done but we now have a path to the launch of competitive 4G services next spring, bringing real benefit to consumers, businesses and the wider economy.'

A spokesman for Three said: 'We see this as a positive step for UK consumers by removing the monopoly on LTE that would have benefitted just one operator.'

Analysts welcomed the new calendar but were critical of the delays that slowed the process. Matthew Howett, leader of telecoms regulatory practice for analyst Ovum, said the new timetable has resulted in 'one of the most ambitious 4G roll out strategies we have seen' but added all parties involved were guilty of slowing down the process. He said: 'Initially it was Ofcom for failing to appreciate how operators might actually intend to use the spectrum and its inability to take a joined-up approach, only to be followed by the government for taking its eye off the ball during the change of parliament once a way forward had been laid out. 

'Finally, the operators themselves can't escape blame entirely either. For too long it suited them all too well to keep sending the matter back to Ofcom at a time when money was tight and the economic outlook uncertain.'

Mark Newman, chief research officer at Informa Telecoms & Media, said EE has an 'important window of opportunity' to snatch market share from rivals during the next six to eight months. He compared it to when O2 had iPhone exclusivity in 2007. He said: 'EE is going to launch a major national advertising campaign in the coming weeks and the combination of an attractive new brand, faster speeds and the iPhone 5 (which will operate on the 4G network) is going to be a pretty compelling proposition. O2 and Vodafone are going to have to think really hard about how to freshen up their brands.

'For the UK as a whole the faster 4G timetable rescues it from the embarrassment of being seen as a communications services backwater. A lot has been made of the faster speeds that 4G will offer on smartphones but we should not forget that the biggest benefits will accrue to those people who have poor home broadband connectivity. When 4G reaches these people – most likely in 2014 or 2015 – it will provide a significant boost to local communities and economies.'

Kester Mann, senior analyst, operators at CCS Insight said: ''The freeing up of spectrum for 4G some five months earlier than previously planned is positive news for Vodafone, O2 and 3 as they will now be in a position to launch in spring 2013. This is great news for the UK, as consumers will sooner be able to benefit from a more competitive market for 4G services.

 'However, the agreement slashes EE’s first-mover advantage and means it will need to work much harder and be more aggressive in its roll-out and marketing if it’s going to capitalise on its period of exclusivity. Realistically we can expect EE to imminently announce a start date for later this month.

''Yesterday’s (Tuesday) developments not only bring to an end years of wrangling and argument over the schedule to award 4G licences in the UK, but it also means any prospect of litigation or appeal to delay the process has been kept at bay.

'This is undoubtedly a great move for the UK, which has already fallen behind the 105 other countries that are currently offering commercial 4G. However, questions remain why other European markets were able to release spectrum previously held for TV broadcast sooner than the UK.'

Editor: Shujaul Azam

Written by Mobile Today
Mobile Today


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