Mobile broadband dongles for superfast 4G mobile broadband should be on sale for T-Mobile and Orange by the end of 2012.
British communications regulator Ofcom has told the mobile operators they can use 3G and 2G frequencies for the faster 4G services.
The 4G services will be available first on USB dongles, but smartphones and tablets with 4G are expected in early 2013. The new iPad 3 isn’t compatible with European 4G frequencies.
Other mobile operators are waiting for an auction later this year, when they will bid for new frequencies to launch 4G services.
Ofcom’s provisional decision follows a request by Everything Everywhere, which owns Orange and T-Mobile in the UK.
Ofcom said: “Allowing Everything Everywhere to reuse its spectrum in this way is likely to bring material benefits to consumers, including faster mobile broadband speeds and – depending on how Everything Everywhere uses the spectrum – potentially wider mobile broadband coverage in rural areas.
“Ofcom has considered whether allowing Everything Everywhere to use this spectrum in this way would distort competition, and provisionally concluded that it would not. And given the benefits this would bring to consumers, Ofcom is minded to allow this change of use.”
Orange and T-Mobile will use frequencies at around 1800MHz to run 4G services, which can reach 100 Mbps on the move and up to 1Gbps for stationary users with high performance antennas.
The 1800MHz frequencies owned by Orange and T-Mobile won’t reach these high speeds, which will come when the ‘sweet spot’ frequencies at 800MHz are auctioned off.
Everything Everywhere will start an 1800MHz 4G trial in April, and is upgrading its network to deal with high speed traffic for streaming audio and video when the new services launch.
Olaf Swantee, EE’s CEO, said: “Everything Everywhere’s vision is to launch 4G for Britain as soon as possible, and our 4G trials across Britain are major steps towards delivering on that promise.
“There is a great opportunity for the UK to have the 21st Century network that it so deserves, putting the nation on a level playing field with other parts of Europe, the USA and Asia.”
Ofcom’s approval won’t be complete until it’s taken the opinions of consumers and industry in a four-week consultation on the 4G launch.