Ofcom: UK 4G in 2012 is possible

Ofcom has announced that the UK could be seeing some 4G action this year.

Following an application from Everything Everywhere - the umbrella network that covers Orange and T-Mobile here in Blighty - the communications watchdog has decided that use of its existing spectrum to deliver 4G services will not distort competition.

"Given the benefits this would bring to consumers, Ofcom is minded to allow this change of use," it stated.

The idea is that Everything Everywhere would use the existing 1800MHz spectrum it currently uses for 3G (it was previously a 2G band) "for LTE and WiMAX use" in accordance with the Wireless Telegraphy Act 2006.

This won't affect the planned 4G auction as the bands lined up for that include those in the 800MHz and 2.6GHz frequencies. UK Broadband also announced in February that it would launch a 4G network this year using its 3.5 GHz spectrum.

Ofcom has admitted that using the 1800MHz bandit would mean Everything Everywhere would be first to the 4G party in the UK as it would "be the only entity capable of providing LTE/WiMAX services on a national basis for a period of time", but has stated that it does "not consider that any material risk of distortion to competition will arise if we vary EE's licence as requested".

It has also declared though, that interested parties (ie, the other networks) have four weeks in which to submit their views on the proposed change.

Whatever the outcome, it's definitely more positive than the news we brought you in December that the UK 4G network would not be complete until 2015.

Update: An Everything Everywhere spokesperson has contacted us to say: “It’s very important that the UK does not get left behind in the building of a new infrastructure for the digital economy. We welcome today’s notice of 1800MHz licence variation from Ofcom, as it suggests Ofcom’s willingness to encourage the early deployment of 4G LTE.”

Still a bit confused by 4G? Take a look at our guide What is 4G? and it will all seem much clearer.