EE says 4G will benefit economy but Vodafone says only if there is level playing field
Everything Everywhere has launched 4G Britain, a website that aims to preach the benefits of 4G to the UK and provide information to individuals and businesses interested in bringing a network to the UK.
However, the initiative has sparked controversy as it does not have the support of the other major mobile operators in the UK, with some advertised participants denying they had joined the “not for profit” organisation, attracting accusations it was little more than a “lobbying effort”.
Arguing the case
Last month, Everything Everywhere was granted provisional approval to launch a 4G network on its existing spectrum, ahead of the twice-delayed Ofcom auction set for later this year. Its rivals have accused Ofcom of distorting competition, with Vodafone saying the full benefits of 4G would only be realised if more than one operator was providing such a service.
Three CEO Dave Dyson also accused Ofcom of putting competition at risk and refused to rule out legal action over the decision, arguing that just because Everything Everywhere had the spectrum, it didn’t mean it should be allowed to use it.
As well as launching 4GBritain, Everything Everywhere has also released the results of independent research that it commissioned, which said that 4G has the potential to add 0.5 percent, or £7.5 billion, to the UK economy by the end of the decade, as well as securing or creating 125,000 jobs.
In addition to the economic benefits, it argues that such a network would kickstart a new cycle of investment and innovation in Internet and mobile devices, give the UK a world class infrastructure and make the UK more globally competitive and attract new start-ups.
“This research highlights the significant economic and social benefits that 4G will bring to the UK – already enjoyed in over 30 countries around the world,” said Olaf Swantee, CEO of Everything Everywhere. “The UK has the highest levels of smartphone penetration and mobile commerce in Europe, and Britons deserve to have the best infrastructure in place to support this growth.”
Last week, it was reported that Everything Everywhere had been trying to get several high-profile celebrities to support the campaign, but some raised concerns at the lack of support from the other major networks.
Autonomy and eBay were listed as participants in the venture, but both said they had not yet joined, while Vodafone called it a “lobbying effort set up to give an unfair competitive advantage” and Three said it was a “campaign to push for and protect a potential monopoly position”.
Vodafone confirmed that it was invited to join last Friday, claiming Everything Everywhere seemed to miss the point that all it wanted was a level playing field.
“Rest assured that Vodafone is very excited by the prospect of bringing 4G services to Britain not least because we have already launched this technology in several other markets,” a Vodafone spokesperson told TechWeekEurope. “We have made it clear on many occasions that we believe a competitive market for 4G services will bring real benefits to consumers, businesses and the wider British economy. We’re already asking the Government and regulator to make sure that everyone can launch this technology as soon as possible.”
Three had been listed as a partner of 4GBritain, but TechWeekEurope understands it had not signed up to the initiative.
“We want UK consumers to benefit from a competitive 4G market as soon as possible,” said a Three spokesperson. “We’re keen to know the objective of EE’s campaign so we can better understand whether it seeks to restore competition to the UK mobile market, or reduce it still further.”
O2 added that it questioned the motives behind the campaign and reiterated its belief that the success of 4G would depend on a competitive market.
“Everything Everywhere has asked the Government for a change to its licence to run 4G services on their existing 2G network band, so they can launch up to a year early. Something the other operators are not in a position to do,” said an O2 spokesperson. “It would seem, therefore, that this campaign is about the interests of one business, rather than for the benefit of all UK customers and to deliver on the promise of making Britain digital. The mobile market in the UK offers customers value and quality because we have the most competitive landscape in Europe. We are supportive of any campaign that acts openly in the interests of all UK customers.”
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