UK mobile operators set for crunch 4G meeting

UK mobile operators set for crunch 4G meeting

A meeting about the UK's roll-out of 4G services is taking place today, with a host of mobile operators getting together to discuss bringing forward the Ofcom auction of the spectrum.

The major companies will be joined by culture secretary Maria Miller and communications regulator Ofcom, in a bid to quicken up the process, which has been delayed through regulatory issues and litigation in the past.

Ofcom has told the government that the allocation of the spectrum could be brought forward to allow faster mobile download speeds across the UK earlier than expected, with May or June 2013 being estimated for the roll-out.

Prior to the meeting, O2 revealed it is hopeful of reaching an agreement with the communications watchdog so it can launch 4G services as early as summer 2013.

Ronan Dunne, chief executive of the operator, said: "It's been a very good process and it feels that we've made a lot of progress, so I'm hopeful that we'll have a basis for moving forward."

O2, along with Vodafone, had expressed their anger that Everything Everywhere (EE) was granted permission to launch the 4G service earlier than other players in the industry.

Ofcom has said it could bring forward its airwave auction by about a fortnight from its current January date, and then speed up handover of control of the frequencies, which would reduce the amount of time EE has an advantage over its competitors.

The offer is designed to calm legal threats from the other operators, who could use court action to block the launch of any superfast mobile services in Britain. The government has stepped in to broker peace talks between the operators and the watchdog, as it fears that Britain's digital economy would suffer as a result of further delays.

Other European nations, the US and South Korea already have widespread 4G coverage, a gap the UK government wants to close as part of its aims to improve broadband in the nation, to make it the best in Europe by 2015.