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Everything Everywhere spectrum sell-off raises 4G hopes

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Samsung Galaxy S Blaze 4G
Everything Everywhere has expressed its 'confidence' that 4G mobile services will launch in the UK by the end of this year, after the mobile giant started the sale of part of its spectrum to other operators.

Everything Everywhere has appointed Morgan Stanley to sell off around a quarter of its 1800Mhz spectrum, as stipulated as a condition of the merger of T-Mobile and Orange in the UK to form the biggest mobile operator by customer base.

Morgan Stanley will market the spectrum to any groups with an interest in offering a 4G network in the UK to rival the proposed service of Everything Everywhere. This is intended to generate fresh competition in the new market.

The major mobile operators are expected to be interested in the spectrum, which could cost around £400m, although other technology firms may also lodge bids.

UK mobile users are currently unable to access 4G networks, which are designed to carry bandwidth-heavy services such as mobile TV and gaming.

Ofcom intends to run a major action of the 800 Mhz spectrum freed up by the UK's digital TV switchover to enable 4G, but this has been pushed back to later in 2012 following disputes over the structure of the process.

Everything Everywhere's rivals have expressed concern that the company could seek to further delay the auction (also involving the sell off of 2.6 MHz frequencies) as a way to advance its own 4G plans.

The company, owned by France Telecom and Deutsche Telekom, has asked Ofcom to reuse some of its 1800 Mhz spectrum to launch 4G ahead of the auction.

Ofcom is supportive of the move, but rival operators have said that it risks jeopardising the nascent 4G market and could allow Everything Everywhere to bog the auction down in legal challenges.

But Everything Everywhere chief executive Olaf Swantee told the Financial Times that the company is confident that it will be able to launch 4G before the end of the year.

He also noted that Everything Everywhere would be required to provide wholesale access to the 4G-enabled network to smaller rival Three, under the specifications of UK and European competition authorities.

The slice of Everything Everywhere's 1800 Mhz spectrum to be sold would also only be offered to a company that can provide "genuine competition" in 4G, said Swantee.

"We are confident that this spectrum will be liberalised [and] we can get 4G before the end of the year," he said. "The time period of any advantage [that EE may have] is not long."

> New iPad: UK regulator could investigate Apple's 4G claims

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