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Vodafone challenges Ofcom's 4G mobile move

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A general view of the headquarters of Vodafone in Newbury, Berkshire

© PA Images / Chris Ison/PA Archive

Vodafone's chief executive has accused Ofcom of "taking leave of its senses" after the regulator said that it was "minded to approve" a proposal from rival Everything Everywhere to launch 4G mobile in the UK earlier than expected.

Ofcom will hold the biggest single auction of mobile spectrum in British history later in the year, allowing mobile operators, including Vodafone, to start offering next generation 4G services, such as superfast broadband.

However, the watchdog said this month that it was prepared to accept a bid by Everything Everywhere - the joint venture between Orange and T-Mobile UK - to reuse its 1800 MHz spectrum to provide 4G as early as this year.

As expected, the move had been almost immediately challenged by rival operators. Vodafone boss Guy Laurence has accused Ofcom of having taken "leave of its senses" in accepting the proposal from Everything Everywhere, the UK's largest mobile operator by customer base.

In an interview with The Sunday Times, reported by Dow Jones Newswires, Laurence said that Ofcom was "all but agreeing to grant the largest player in the market a headstart on the next generation of mobile internet services".

Laurence is also concerned about Everything Everywhere being 'free to bog down' the planned spectrum auction in legal challenges in order to prevent other networks from entering the UK 4G market.

It is widely expected that Vodafone, along with Three and O2, will make submissions to Ofcom's consultation on the 4G plans, before it ends this Thursday.

4G mobile is currently only available in the US and Canada, but acceleration of consumer demand for the network is expected to increase after Apple released a 4G version of the new iPad tablet last week.

In a statement, Everything Everywhere said: "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.

"As the Prime Minister noted this morning, the USA already has 4G capacity in place and our major European competitors are ahead of us in setting up their own 4G networks.

"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."

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