O2, Three & Vodafone hired an ‘army of lawyers’ to de-rail the introduction of 4G services, according to claims made by former EE CEO Olaf Swantee (pictured).
In his new book, The 4G Mobile Revolution, which is due for publication in August, and a copy of which has been seen by Mobile, Swantee states: ‘The competition will not shy away from using armies of lawyers to stop industrial policy – even when it is good for society and for the viability of the market.
‘I’m of the firm belief that our competitors in the UK did their utmost to delay the introduction of 4G in the UK because they did not have an appetite to invest in the market at the time; their technology teams did not want to introduce 4G using their existing assets because it was against their plans; and they did not want us to succeed in driving network innovation before them.’
Rival networks have strongly contested Swantee’s accusations that they attempted to slow down the rollout. One network source branded the claims ‘bonkers’, and said that ‘EE got spectrum from the Orange T-Mobile merger and a leg-up from Ofcom, allowing it to launch before the 4G auction even happened.’
While Vodafone and Three refused to release an official statement, an O2 spokesperson said: ‘We have always been committed to delivering a differentiated experience to our customers, which includes investing heavily in the latest technology. We wanted to launch 4G as soon as possible and did so once we were able to acquire the necessary 4G spectrum. In just over two and a half years we have rolled out 4G to nearly 90% of the UK population.
'This is the fastest rollout of any network in our history, and a testament to our commitment to deliver 4G benefits to our customers with urgency.’
After T-Mobile & Orange merged, EE discovered that its combined 1,800MHz spectrum could be farmed to create enough space to launch a 4G service. This was two years ahead of the government’s planned 4G rollout. Swantee described the government’s timetable as ‘a national embarrassment for the UK’. He claimed it ‘only served the four big mobile networks who would be able to delay the launch of the next-generation services and “sweat” their existing 3G assets.’
Similiarly, when the Competition and Markets Authority was considering the £12.5bn BT EE deal last June, Olaf stated in The Independent that criticism of the deal by rivals was similarly an attempt to divert interest in 5G development. He said: ‘We know where the next technology is coming from. Other companies who are not investing in technology at the moment may be using the CMA investigation to try to divert interest.’