The push for 4G in the UK received a boost on Thursday, as Three, EE, Telefonica and Vodafone joined forces to speed up the use of 800MHz spectrum for faster mobile broadband.
The operators said on Thursday they have set up a company, Digital Mobile Spectrum, dedicated to making sure services in the 800MHz band launch as planned. That spectrum is currently used for television signals, but is expected to be cleared at the beginning of next year, making way for the introduction of 4G by May 2013.
"The rollout of 4G is a huge step forward for mobile broadband services in the UK and will be incredibly important in driving economic growth," culture secretary Maria Miller said in a joint statement from the operators, Ofcom and the Department for Culture, Media and Sport.
"I am pleased that the mobile operators will be working together to ensure that no viewers lose their television services when 4G is rolled out, and congratulate them on setting up the assistance scheme so quickly."
Miller's department and telecoms regulator Ofcom advised the operators on setting up Digital Mobile Spectrum. Getting the company up and running was "one of the areas highlighted by Ofcom and the government" in recent discussions on boosting 4G services in the UK, the statement said.
Funding for the company will come from successful bidders in the 800MHz spectrum auction expected early next year. If an operator not already involved buys part of that spectrum, they can immediately become a shareholder.
Telefonica (parent of O2), EE (parent of Orange and T-Mobile), Three and Vodafone previously worked together in the Mobile Experience Group, which focused on making sure mobile services held up during the 2012 Olympics in London.
The same operators also collaborated in a company called MitCo, that had the same interim chairman, Andrew Pinder.