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Ed Vaizey 4G delay accusations anger UK mobile operators

Communications minister Ed Vaizey has riled-up UK mobile operators by accusing them of delaying the UK’s auction of frequencies for 4G mobile broadband.

Ed Vaizey by IRGlover/FlickrRecombu’s phone and email have been buzzing with responses to Vaizey’s comments who hold either the government, media regulator Ofcom, or each other responsible for the delay.

They’ve also pointed out that – with the exception of Everything Everywhere – the delay isn’t crucial because the vital 800MHz spectrum being sold off won’t be free for 4G use until late 2013.

A Vodafone UK spokesperson 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.”

The 800MHz spectrum is seen as vital because it can travel longer distances for rural coverage and it can penetrate buildings much better than existing mobile signals.

Behind the scenes, Recombu Digital understands that O2, Vodafone and Three are angry that the government told Ofcom to relaunch its consultation on 4G spectrum after the merger of Orange and T-Mobile into Everything Everywhere.

With a huge chunk frequencies around 1800MHz, licensed for both 2G and 3G, Everything Everywhere is anxious to use them for 4G services from the end of this year, giving it a head-start on the competition.

An Everything Everywhere spokesperson 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.”

We’ll continue to update this story as more operators send their comments. 

Image: IRGlover/Flickr