New 4G rollout timetable agreed after peace talks

New 4G rollout timetable agreed after peace talks

The UK's mobile operators have reached a deal with the government and Ofcom to bring forward the launch of the 4G network in the UK.

Each of the major players in the industry attended a meeting yesterday, chaired by culture secretary Maria Miller. They reached an agreement to bring the launch of the 4G network forward by six months, while O2 and Vodafone have agreed not to proceed with litigation against EE.

Both were unhappy that their rival firm had been granted permission to launch the technology earlier, which they claimed provided EE with a competitive advantage in the market.

"Delivering 4G quickly is a key part of our economic growth strategy," said Ms Miller.

"I am grateful to the mobile operators for their co-operation in bringing forward vital 4G services."

Ofcom said that it had secured the earlier release of frequencies that were previously used for digital-terrestrial broadcasting.

Ed Richards, Ofcom chief executive, said: "The actions we have taken with industry and government avoid the risk of significant delay and are tremendous news for consumers who might otherwise have waited a considerable period for the next generation of mobile broadband services."

The announcement of the new timetable, which will see the auction go ahead in January, but the launch of services brought forward by six months, means the UK will be able to compete with other European nations in terms of mobile broadband speeds.

Matthew Howett, an analyst with research firm Ovum, said: "In a matter of weeks, the UK has gone from being behind countries such as Angola, Azerbaijan and Uzbekistan to one with one of the most ambitious 4G roll-out strategies we have seen."

The expert noted that the advances made by O2 and Vodafone on their 3G networks could limit the advantage EE has, as users will be receiving faster download speeds than they previously had, without the initial need for 4G.

A spokesman for Three welcomed the new deal, describing it as a "positive step forward" for mobile broadband in the UK.