OFCOM granted EE permission to use their existing 1800 MHz spectrum to provide 4G services in late October last year and it's fair to say the other operators were'nt at all pleased with the decision. Ever since EE have been the only network offering 4G in the UK giving them an all important head-start on their rivals.
Currently, the only way the other major UK operators (Vodafone, O2 and Three) will be able to offer 4G is by bidding for 800 MHz and 2.6 GHz spectrum in the 4G auctions . However, that could be about to change because OFCOM are now considering requests from Vodafone and Three to use their existing spectrum to provide 4G.
The regulator is currently holding a consultation with the operators to decide whether they'll grant them permission to use their existing 2G and 3G spectrum to provide 4G. Judgement will be given on March 29th which is around the same time that the 4G auctions will conclude.
Vodafone want to use their 900MHz, 1800MHz and 2100MHz ( 2G and 3G bands ) to provide 4G. While , Three want permission to use their 2100 MHz spectrum to deliver 4G , which they hope to use in conjunction with the 1800 MHz spectrum they bought from EE last year.
Vodafone and Three will be hoping to gain approval because it'll potentially enable them to launch 4G in the UK sooner than was previously possible. At the very least it'll enable them to begin preparing their 4G network earlier.
Additionally, using existing spectrum to provide 4G will save Vodafone and Three money because they won't need to buy as much 4G spectrum in the 4G auction. However, it'll be a gamble because OFCOM's won't give their judgment until after the 4G auctions have ended.
Ultimately, we hope OFCOM approves Vodafone and Three's proposals because it should lead to better 4G coverage and lower prices for consumers. We'll continue to keep you updated on all the latest news related to 4G in the UK including all the latest from the 4G auctions.