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Ofcom extends Everything Everywhere 4G deadline after criticism

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Samsung Galaxy S Blaze 4G
Ofcom has extended the deadline for submissions on allowing Everything Everywhere to offer 4G mobile early in the UK, following growing controversy over the move.

Earlier in the week, the media regulator said in a short statement that industry stakeholders and individuals now have until May 8 rather than the previous April 17 deadline to respond to the consultation.

Ofcom said that it has decided to extend this period "following requests from stakeholders for more time to respond".

The consultation was launched after Ofcom said that it was "minded to approve" a proposal by Everything Everywhere - the joint mobile venture between Orange and T-Mobile UK - to vary its 1800MHz spectrum licences to allow the use of LTE and WiMAX technologies.

This would allow Everything Everywhere to launch 4G services in the UK potentially as early as the fourth quarter of 2012, but rival mobile firms have widely criticised the move as they will not be able to offer 4G until after a major auction of spectrum later this year.

Vodafone chief executive Guy Laurence accused Ofcom of having "taken leave of its senses" over the move, while O2 expressed concern that Everything Everywhere - the biggest UK mobile firm by customer base - would seek to bog down the spectrum auction with litigation to delay the entry of other firms into the 4G market.

Ofcom is required by European law to listen to any requests from mobile operators to reuse spectrum for providing 4G, but Three believes that Everything Everywhere's proposal would give the firm an unfair advantage.

Speaking at a Westminster eForum earlier in the week, Three's chef executive David Dyson said: "If Everything Everywhere got their spectrum liberated, it would use it to its advantage.

"Customers would have to pay a reasonable premium for the service and it wouldn't be a broad proposition but a niche one. This will give them marketing power."

According to the Computing website, Dyson added: "They should not be able to use spectrum for 4G services. Ofcom should have waited until after the auction [to consider this].

"A lot of spectrum should be available [to all mobile operators] next year, which is when Everything Everywhere should be able to use 4G LTE technology."

But Kip Meek, who has acted as an advisor to Everything Everywhere since March 2011, pointed out that a condition of the merger of T-Mobile and Orange was that they give up a quarter of their spectrum.

Meek, formerly chairman of IPTV joint venture YouView, therefore believes it would be unfair to prevent the firms from launching 4G LTE this year.

"It would not be fair for Ofcom to say 4G should not be launched in the final quarter of 2012 and instead to be launched in the first quarter of 2013," he said at the Westminster event

"In the interest of consumers, we are already behind globally in LTE technology and it would be inappropriate to deny customers the technology when it could be available."

> Mobile roaming charges to fall in the summer

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