Vodafone said that it is shocked at Ofcom's "careless" and "bizarre" decision to allow the company behind Orange and T-Mobile to start providing 4G services from 11 September.


Ofcom had previously said that the auction process for 4G would begin at the end of this year, with networks hopeful of offering the super-fast mobile broadband to customers by the middle of 2013, but Everything Everywhere - the merger between Orange and T-Mobile - has been given a head start.

"We are frankly shocked that Ofcom has reached this decision," Vodafone said in a statement sent to IBTimes UK.

"The regulator has shown a careless disregard for the best interests of consumers, businesses and the wider economy through its refusal to properly regard the competitive distortion created by allowing one operator to run services before the ground has been laid for a fully competitive 4G market.

"Ofcom's timing is particularly bizarre given the reports that Everything Everywhere is currently in discussions to sell some of its spectrum to 3, which Ofcom has previously been at such pains to protect with its over-engineering of the 4G auction. This means the balance in the auction will fundamentally change."

The decision means that Everything Everywhere (EE), which is the UK's largest mobile network, with 28 million customers, can upgrade its existing 1800MHz license now, in a move that will see the network become the first to offer super-fast 4G mobile internet ahead of the competition.

Rivals Vodafone, O2 and Three are not expected to launch their 4G networks until the middle of next year, as the 800MHz and 2.6GHz bands will not be auctioned off to them until the start of 2013.

Looking for Ofcom to do its job properly

Vodafone went on: "The regulator has spent several years refusing to carry out a fair and open auction. Now its decision today has granted the two most vociferous complainants during that entire process a massive incentive to further delay it.

"We wholeheartedly support the Secretary of State's call for the 4G auction to occur in December and look to the regulator to finally do its job and produce a competitive market for 4G services as soon as possible."

The network believes that a fully competitive market for 4G services is in the best interests for the country and states that it has already committed itself to reach 98 percent of the indoor UK population by 2015 - two years ahead of Ofcom's target.

But Vodafone need to acquire spectrum in the auction due in early 2013 to achieve this.

"Ironically, all that stands in our way now is the regulator."