Ofcom will run the UK's largest ever auction of mobile spectrum later this year to enable 4G, but the major mobile operators were not expected to start offering the services until 2013.
However, Everything Everywhere - the joint venture between Orange and T-Mobile UK - has submitted an application to Ofcom that would involve re-using existing spectrum to provide 4G.
Everything Everywhere has asked Ofcom to vary its 1800 MHz spectrum licences to allow 4G mobile, the term generally used to refer to mobile broadband services delivered using next-generation technologies, including Long Term Evolution (LTE) and WiMAX.
4G is suited to wide bandwidth data services, such as video streaming and rich media, and is able to support broadband on mobile devices of up to 100Mbps.
Ofcom has said that allowing Everything Everywhere to reuse spectrum as proposed would bring "material benefits" to consumers, including faster mobile broadband speeds and greater mobile internet coverage in rural areas.
The regulator claimed that it has considered whether Everything Everywhere - the UK's largest mobile provider by customer base - could be able to "distort competition" by launching 4G ahead of its rivals.
However, Ofcom said that considering the benefits the new 4G services would bring to consumers, it is "minded to allow this change of use".
Interested parties have four weeks in which to submit their views on this proposed changes. It is widely expected that the other mobile operators will challenge the move - particularly Three, which has expressed concern about being squeezed out of the mobile data market.
4G, the successor to 2G and 3G, is currently only available in certain countries, but expansion of the service is expected to accelerate after Apple included 4G connectivity in the new iPad announced last week.
Ofcom is required to consider all applications for the use of 4G on the 900 MHz and 1800 MHz spectrum following an EU directive. The spectrum bands were previously used for voice calls and sending text messages, until 3G services were launched supporting mobile data.
Ofcom believes that next-generation 4G could provide the solution to the growing demand for internet connected devices in the UK, including tablets, laptops and smartphones.
It could also help boost mobile broadband coverage in rural areas, with various trial projects already under way, including one announced by UK Broadband in London last month.
Responding to Ofcom's report, Everything Everywhere said: "It's very important that the UK does not get left behind in the building of a new infrastructure for the digital economy.
"We welcome today's notice of 1800MHz licence variation from Ofcom, as it suggests Ofcom's willingness to encourage the early deployment of 4G LTE."
> Mobile operators to cover costs of 4G TV interference