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Three agrees deal to buy Everything Everywhere spectrum

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Three mobile network
Three has today agreed a deal to buy a portion of Everything Everywhere's 1800Mhz spectrum, giving the firm valuable capacity that can carry 4G mobile broadband.

Everything Everywhere was forced to sell off some of its spectrum by European competition authorities following the merger of Orange and T-Mobile to form the new company in 2010.

Three, owned by Hutchison Whampoa, has agreed a deal to acquire 2x15Mhz of 1800Mhz spectrum from Everything Everywhere.

Financial terms of the deal have not been disclosed and the sale must still be approved by Ofcom and European regulators.

"As part of the commitments given when the European Commission approved the merger of Orange and T-Mobile in the UK in March 2010, Everything Everywhere was required to divest 2x15MHz of its 1800MHz spectrum" said an Everything Everywhere spokesperson.

"In accordance with these commitments, Everything Everywhere has today announced an agreement with Three. Ofcom and the European Commission will review whether the divestment satisfies the merger commitments and a response is expected within the next three months."

Three UK chief executive Dave Dyson said that acquiring the spectrum "will more than double the capacity available to customers on our network".

"We have seen a huge growth in data consumption with average mobile handset customer usage now more than 1.1GB per month," said Dyson.

"Three has led the market in the significant growth of mobile data consumption and the shift to consumer use of smartphones to access the internet.

"New spectrum, supported by further committed technology spend, is a clear signal that we are committed to maintain our lead as the network built for the mobile internet."

The deal also theoretically allows Three to deploy its own 4G services earlier than rivals after Ofcom today ruled that Everything Everywhere's 1800Mhz spectrum can be re-purposed to offer the superfast mobile services from September 11.

The move has been heavily criticised by rival operators, as it allows Everything Everywhere - and, in theory, Three - to offer 4G mobile ahead of the planned auction of spectrum for 4G later in the year.

A spokesperson for Vodafone said earlier that the timing of Ofcom's announcement was "particularly bizarre" considering that Everything Everywhere's sale of 1800Mhz spectrum to Three was on the verge of being agreed.

"The regulator has spent several years refusing to carry out a fair and open auction. Now its decision today has granted the two most vociferous complainants during that entire process [Everything Everywhere and Three] a massive incentive to further delay it," said the spokesperson.

"We wholeheartedly support the Secretary of State [Jeremy Hunt's] call for the 4G auction to occur in December and look to the regulator to finally do its job and produce a competitive market for 4G services as soon as possible."

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