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Ofcom, the UK regulator similar to the US FCC, has announced that it had approved Everything Everywhere’s request to rebrand its 1800MHz spectrum to deliver LTE services from September 11, 2012.

The UK has lagged in offering LTE. Their auction of 4G spectrum in the 800MHz and 2.6GHz bands has been delayed several times (mostly due to legacy TV usage), and is now scheduled for the beginning of 2013. Ofcom believes that a delay in allowing Everything Everywhere (the parent company of Orange and T-Mobile) to offer LTE until next year would be “to the detriment of consumers.”

Everything Eveywhere was understandably pleased with Ofcom’s ruling. “Ofcom’s decision to make 4G available this year is great news for the UK. Consumers will soon be able to benefit from the much greater mobile speeds that 4G will deliver. 4G will drive investment, employment and innovation and we look forward to making it available later this year, delivering superfast mobile broadband to the UK.”

Everything Everywhere’s rivals were given four weeks to submit their views on the proposed change. Vodafone opposed the change, stating that it would be “a terrible blow to competition in the UK.”

“We are hugely disappointed with today’s announcement, which will mean the majority of customers will be excluded from the first wave of digital services,” said a spokesperson for O2.

The UK’s smallest operator, 3, may have a different take. Everything Everywhere has sold a chunk of its 1800MHz spectrum to 3 UK in a deal that could enable 3 to launch its own 4G service. The divestment was part of the regulatory conditions imposed on the merger between Orange UK and T-Mobile UK that created Everything Everywhere in 2010.

Everything Everywhere is to sell two chunks (2x15MHz) of 1800MHz spectrum to 3, more than doubling the capacity on its network. Financial terms were not disclosed. According to a Computer Weekly report, 3 would not confirm it is planning a 4G launch but an Ofcom spokesperson said it would be within the rules if it wanted to do so.

Everything Everywhere is the UK’s largest communications company, providing mobile and fixed-broadband communications services to more than 27 million customers through the Orange and T-Mobile brands.

Telefónica and Vodafone said this June they planned to combine their wireless phone networks in Britain and jointly build a new, LTE network to keep pace with the market leader, Everything Everywhere, itself a joint venture between Deutsche Telekom and France Télécom. Subject to the outcome of the forthcoming spectrum auction, Vodafone and Telefónica intend to offer indoor 4G coverage targeting 98% of the UK population at speeds of at least 2Mbps by 2015.

Ofcom’s auction of 800 MHz and 2.6 GHz spectrum is expected early next year.

It includes proposals for one of the 4G licenses at 800MHz to have an indoor coverage obligation of 98% of the population (at a speed of at least 2Mbps) by 2017.

Ofcom proposed two spectrum caps:

  • A sub 1GHz safeguard cap of 2×27.5 MHz, which will mean that no one competitor can obtain more than this amount of sub 1 GHz spectrum.
  • An overall spectrum holdings cap of 2×105 MHz, which will mean that no one competitor can obtain more than this amount of spectrum overall.

United Kingdom has a total of 80 million subscribers, with a 130.55% penetration rate. Mobile operators in the UK include:

The 50-50 venture of Vodafone and Telefónica will encompass a combined 18,500 cell tower masts, an increase of roughly 40 percent for each operator. Telefónica already shares its network with Vodafone in Spain and with T-Mobile in the Czech Republic.

Everything, Everywhere’s real slam dunk may not be the exclusivity of LTE in the UK for nearly a year – but the impact that an LTE-enabled iPhone 5 could bring.

Related Dailywireless articles include; Joint LTE Network in UK Planned by Vodafone and Telefónica, UK Spectrum Auction: Delayed Again?, UK Spectrum Auction: Legal Threat from 02UK?, UK Delays 4G Auction, Ofcom: White Spaces by 2013, UK Gets Free Public WiFi, Europe’s Digital Divide Auction, German 4G Auction: It’s Done, Auctions Winding Down in Germany & India, Germany 4G Auctions Begin, Europe to Follow, EU: Global LTE Roaming at 1.8 GHz, End Near for Indian WiMAX?, India’s Broadband Auction: It’s Done, TD-LTE Gains Momentum, Yota Dumps WiMAX, Australia: WiMAX to TD-LTE, UK Getting LTE, WiMAX to TD-LTE: Everybody’s Doin’ It

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