Vodafone: Ofcom ‘Taking Leave Of Its Senses’ Over EE 4G

Vodafone continues to lead opposition to Ofcom’s decision last Tuesday to allow Everything Everywhere to deploy a 4G LTE network this year, accusing the regulator of losing its mind.

The operator already gave its initial reaction to TechWeekEurope last week, saying it seriously doubted that consumers’ best interests were being served by Ofcom giving one company a significant head start before any of its competitors have a clear path to 4G.

At the weekend, Vodafone ramped up its war of words on Ofcom’s decision to allow Everything Everywhere to reuse its existing 1800MHz spectrum to deliver 4G.

Vodafone UK boss Guy Laurence used an interview in the Sunday Times to lash out at Ofcom, with comments that were picked up Dow Jones Newswires.

Laurence accused Ofcom of “taking leave of its senses” in accepting the proposal from Everything Everywhere, the UK’s largest mobile operator by customer base.

Vodafone’s Laurence also said Ofcom “is all but agreeing to grant the largest player in the market a headstart on the next generation of mobile internet services.”

The CEO claimed Everything Everywhere would now “be free to bog down” the forthcoming spectrum auction in endless litigation, preventing other operators from building 4G networks.

Somewhat ironically, Vodafone questioned the legality of the auction last year. The deadline for responses to Ofcom’s 4G auction rules is this Thursday.

Everything Everywhere is still due to sell off some of its own spectrum. European Commission approval for the merger between Orange UK and T-Mobile UK in July 2010 was provisional on the fact that Everything Everywhere sold a quarter of its 1800MHz bandwidth, because of its potential market dominating position.

Silence From O2/3UK

Despite this, so far there has been no public reaction at all from either O2 or 3.

A 3 spokesperson told Techweek Europe the company was still formulating a response. O2 has not responded to TechWeekEurope’s repeated invitations to comment on the matter.

TechWeekEurope also invited Ofcom to respond to Vodafone’s latest attack, but the UK regulator said it did not have any further comment to make on the matter.

EE Speaks

Everything Everywhere, however, was keen to make its own point, by stressing the need for 4G networks.

“It is our aspiration to bring 4G to the UK as soon as possible, enabling the people and businesses of Britain to benefit from the fastest mobile data speeds and to allow the country to catch up with Europe and the rest of the world,” an Everything Everywhere spokesperson said.

“As the Prime Minister noted this morning, the US already has 4G capacity in place and our major European competitors are ahead of us in setting up their own 4G networks,” the spokesman said. “The EU has already mandated the updating of all spectrum licences across Europe, and consequently Ofcom is now carrying out its duty to make this happen quickly for British consumers and businesses. We fully support this.”

Spectrum Frustration?

The auction for the necessary spectrum to build 4G networks has been delayed twice amidst operator bickering and threats of legal action. The auction won’t take place until the latter part of this year at the earliest.

This is not the first time Ofcom has allowed existing spectrum to be reused for new technology.

In March 2011, O2 launched 3G services on spectrum formerly reserved for 2G. This move was possible after Ofcom said in January last year that UK mobile operators would be able to offer 3G services using 2G spectrum.

Tom Jowitt

Tom Jowitt is a leading British tech freelancer and long standing contributor to Silicon UK. He is also a bit of a Lord of the Rings nut...

View Comments

  • Sour grapes?

    Or is someone's nose being bloodied?

    Of course, if Vodafone were able to maintain their 3G network adequately I might feel more sympathetic.

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