Mobile Providers Try To Speed Up U.K. Government’s 4G Network Plans

Last month the new provider EE–that’s Everything Everywhere–got the first 4G mobile license in Britain. Now its rivals are pushing for the government to push on with the 4G spectrum auction and let them in on the action.

The U.K.’s mobile networks are today sitting down with both the Government and telecoms watchdog Ofcom in an attempt to hasten the arrival of super-fast mobile broadband via the 4G network. Culture Secretary Maria Miller will have her work cut out for her: a charm offensive will be needed in order for her to stave off at least one provider’s threat to wage war against Ofcom over claims that her department has given a rival consortium an unfair advantage in the race for 4G.


Three weeks ago, EE, Britain’s first 4G provider, arrived, bringing with it news of a super-fast mobile network roll-out in 15 cities by the end of the year. This has not gone down with the established providers, such as O2 and Vodafone, who are grumbling at what they see as favoritism– O2 in particular had threatened legal action.

Just how much of a giddy-up this meeting will give to faster download speeds remains to be seen. The Government can only bring forward the proposed spectrum auction by a couple of weeks, while speeding up the handover of the frequencies. There’s already a deal in place to hand over part of EE’s spectrum to existing network Three, but that is not happening until September 2013.

Today’s agenda will aim to bring that date forward by six months. The sooner this happens, is the thinking, the sooner the economy gets a much needed fillip. One government advisor today stated that faster download speeds could up the country’s GDP by half of one percent–enough to bring Britain out of recessions.

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My writing career has taken me all round the houses over the past decade and a half--from grumpy teens and hungover rock bands in the U.K., where I was born, via celebrity interviews, health, tech and fashion in Madrid and Paris, before returning to London, where I now live. For the past five years I've been writing about technology and innovation for U.S.