UK COMMUNICATIONS REGULATOR Ofcom has put the brakes on a previous ruling that would allow Everything Everywhere - the partnership between T-Mobile and Orange UK - to fire up the nation's first 4G service using the 1800MHz 3G spectrum that the telecoms already own.
In a document published yesterday afternoon Ofcom admitted that it has been forced to bow to pressure from Everything Everywhere's rivals, most notably Vodafone and O2, and extend the 1800MHz proposal consultation by around five weeks until 8 May.
The Ofcom document said, "Update 26|03|12 - Ofcom today extended the period for responding to Ofcom's 'Notice of proposed variation of Everything Everywhere's 1800MHz spectrum licences to allow use of LTE and WiMAX technologies' from 17 April 2012 until 8 May 2012. We have decided to extend this period following requests from stakeholders for more time to respond."
The climb down comes after sustained attacks from O2 and Vodafone arguing that the move to grant Everything Everywhere the right to use its existing 1800MHz 3G spectrum for 4G LTE/Wimax services would be anti-competitive as it would effectively give that operator an initial monopoly on such next generation services. It is estimated that other operators would not be able to offer 4G until late next year or even early 2014 after the UK auctions off 800MHz and 2.6GHz spectrum.
Ofcom itself acknowledged that if it were to vary Everything Everywhere's licence now, it would be likely to be the only entity capable of providing LTE/Wimax services on a national basis for some time.
However, in its original paper published before this climb down the watchdog stated, "In accordance with the relevant legal framework, we have therefore considered whether there is a risk of distortion to competition arising from authorising EE's 1800 MHz licences for LTE and WiMAX technologies. For the reasons set out in this document we do not consider that any material risk of distortion to competition will arise if we vary Everything Everywhere's licence as requested." µ