Ofcom has given Everything Everywhere the go-ahead to start running 4G services on its existing spectrum holdings from 11 September, several months before the auctions for new frequencies take place.
The decision, which has been under review for some months, will give Everything Everywhere, the merger of Orange and T-Mobile, the ability to use its 1800MHz holdings for 4G services, after a period of intense lobbying by the firm touting the benefits of the speeds.
Unsurprisingly, Everything Everywhere was delighted with the decision, claiming it would bring a much-needed boost to the UK's mobile market.
"Consumers will soon be able to benefit from the much greater mobile speeds that 4G will deliver. 4G will drive investment, employment and innovation and we look forward to making it available later this year, delivering superfast mobile broadband to the UK," a spokesperson said.
Ofcom said it had made the decision after concluding that there would not be a material risk that offering consumers 4G services would distort the market, especially with rival operators such as O2 and Vodafone being able to offer their own services from 2013.
However, while the auctions are set to take place in early 2013, it is unlikely operators will have services available much before the end of 2014, as Ofcom itself has noted, while the majority of devices on the market are not compatible with the 800MHz and 2.6GHz 4G spectrums.
As such, rival operators were outraged with the news, with Vodafone saying it was "shocked" by Ofcom's decision.
"The regulator has shown a careless disregard for the best interests of consumers, businesses and the wider economy through its refusal to properly regard the competitive distortion created by allowing one operator to run services before the ground has been laid for a fully competitive 4G market," it added.
Three was also unimpressed.
"Liberalisation of 2G spectrum to date has distorted the competitive landscape in the UK, which ultimately harms consumers," said a spokesperson.
"Further liberalisation without addressing competition issues could make that distortion worse."
V3 contacted O2 for comment but had received no reply at the time of publication.
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