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Rivals asleep at the 4G wheel, says Everything Everywhere

Mobile operators have failed to invest in new 4G technology, contributing to the UK lagging behind other countries in rolling out high speed 4G data services, according to Everything Everywhere
Written by Ben Woods, Contributor

Orange and T-Mobile's parent company has said a lack of action by rival operators is part of the reason the UK lags other countries in the rollout of 4G services.

Everything Everywhere said its competitors, such as Telefonica (O2) and Vodafone, had chosen to improve efficiencies in their 3G networks, in pursuit of cost savings. By contrast, it has chosen to invest in its 4G network, it said.

"They've chosen not to champion 4G at this stage. It's a choice," David Salem, head of network strategy and end-to-end design at Everything Everywhere said on Tuesday, as the company announced it has finished integrating Orange and T-Mobile's 3G networks.

"We have many proof points of how they could have used their existing spectrum they already own today to run a 4G service to the UK," he added.

The comments come as Everything Everywhere pushes its case to be allowed to refarm 2G spectrum in the 1800MHz range to deliver faster 4G services. Ofcom, which needs to give its approval for this, on Wednesday published the responses it got in a public consultation on the refarming. Telefonica was one of those objecting, on a range of grounds.

If the Everything Everywhere does get the green light, it expects its Orange and T-Mobile customers will get access to super-fast 4G mobile services up to a year ahead of other operators' customers.

This head start is the result of the business choices the company's rivals have made with their own existing spectrum, according to Salem.

"The 900Mhz spectrum they do have actually was ahead of the spectrum we're using in terms of devices and equipment; they just chose not to do it. They've chosen to invest or reuse that spectrum for 3G," he said.

However, there are no devices in the UK that are compatible with 4G services in the 900MHz band. However, that situation arises out of whether operators have worked with hardware makers to have devices launched, Salem said.

"It's about commitment. You're talking about Telefonica and Vodafone, they're not minnows," he said, adding that creating a device ecosystem would take rival companies between nine months and one year.

Salem noted that even if Everything Everywhere is able to start rolling out 4G by the end of 2012, which is its hope, the UK will still lag the US and other countries by about two years.

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