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Everything Everywhere pushes for 4G rollout in 2012

The network-sharing venture between T-Mobile and Orange has stressed it is ready to sell 4G services in the UK this year, if Ofcom gives it the go-ahead to refarm 2G spectrum this spring
Written by Ben Woods, Contributor

Everything Everywhere is looking to launch 4G data services this year, beating its rivals in the LTE rollout, if the telecoms regulator gives it the go-ahead.

Everything Everywhere shop

Everything Everywhere has said it is ready to sell 4G services in the UK this year, if Ofcom will give it the go-ahead to refarm 2G spectrum this spring. Photo credit: Karen Friar

On Thursday, the network said it can start selling 4G LTE connectivity to a small number of customers before 2013 if it is allowed to 'refarm' portions of its 2G spectrum in the 1800MHz band. Everything Everywhere asked Ofcom in January for permission to do this, and the regulator said it would consider the application in the first quarter of this year.

"Subject to regulatory approval by the spring, Everything Everywhere will be in a position to begin the rollout of 4G before the end of the year," Olaf Swantee, the company's chief executive, said in a statement. "There is a great opportunity for the UK to have the 21st-century network that it so deserves, putting the nation on a level playing field with other parts of Europe, the USA and Asia."

The rollout of 4G services in the UK has been hampered by repeated delays to Ofcom's spectrum auction, held up by threats of litigation by network operators. In January, Ofcom revised its auction proposals to clear the deadlock and scrapped plans to reserve a slice of 800MHz spectrum for Everything Everywhere. The sell-off of 800MHz and 2.6GHz spectrum for 4G is now set to take place at the end of 2012, meaning Everything Everywhere's rivals would have to wait until 2013 to launch their services.

"Everything Everywhere's vision is to launch 4G for Britain as soon as possible, and the roll out of 3.5G HSPA+ and our 4G trials across Britain are major steps towards delivering on that promise," Swantee said.

If Ofcom gives its approval, the 4G rollout will be carried out "region by region", a spokeswoman for the operator told ZDNet UK. The network, which encompasses Orange and T-Mobile, has been conducting 4G trials using 800MHz spectrum in Cornwall since September. The pilot, originally scheduled to finish in January, has been extended the summer of 2012 at least.

Additionally, Everything Everywhere plans a 4G trial in Bristol that will use the 1800MHz band, to test how well it works in urban and suburban environments, in contrast with its rural testing in Cornwall.

In January, Everything Everywhere told ZDNet UK it could not predict whether it would be able to introduce 4G services before 2013, saying it was "impossible for us to make a call on timing" until it knew more about Ofcom's plans. The regulator committed only to considering the request in spring 2012, not to making a decision.

As well setting its sights on a 4G rollout, Everything Everywhere said it is investing in its 3.5G HSPA+21 infrastructure to ensure its entire network is ready before the end of the third quarter. It also plans to start trials of HSPA+42 in the second quarter, with the aim of offering the service to customers during the final three months of 2012.

"The integration of the Orange and T-Mobile networks has already given our customers the widest 3G coverage in the UK... with our advanced HSPA+ rollout they will also benefit from the fastest," Swantee said.

The company said it has significantly invested in its mobile backhaul — the part of the network that connects each mast into the core network servers. For example, it has added Gigabit Ethernet technology, which "offers customers a reliable connection irrespective of increased usage of data intensive services", it said. In December, Everything Everywhere pledged to spend £1.5bn upgrading its network over the course of the next three years.

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