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Ofcom whips up a storm

UK regulator Ofcom's decision to allow Everything Everywhere to launch 4G on refarmed 1800-MHz spectrum has drawn immediate criticism from rival carriers O2 and Vodafone.

The regulator states the ruling will have no impact on the competitive landscape in the UK, given that it has now set out the terms for the auction of 4G spectrum in the 800-MHz and 2.6-GHz frequencies. However, O2 and Vodafone have blasted the decision, which clears Everything Everywhere to launch commercial services from September 11.

O2 claims the decision will exclude most consumers from the "first wave of digital services," and "undermines the competitive environment for 4G in the UK."

Vodafone was more damning, stating Ofcom "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."

The carrier also claims Ofcom's decision has given Everything Everywhere and rival Three UK(which is acquiring two blocks of 15-MHz from EE's 1800-MHz allocation) "a massive incentive" to try to delay the country's 4G auction. It states the regulator has spent "several years refusing to carry out a fair and open auction," and notes Everything Everywhere and Three UK were the most "vociferous complainants during that entire process."

As for Everything Everywhere, well its being vague on when it will launch its commercial service. That may be due to a lack of compatible handsets in the market, and the decision to use 1800-MHz means that may not be easily overcome by importing devices used in other commercial networks around the world. Given that, it's likely the first 'devices' available from the carrier will be USB dongles, which may mitigate the perceived competitive advantage handed to the carrier.