At a meeting yesterday brokered by culture secretary Maria Miller, the likes of O2, Vodafone and Everything Everywhere reached a deal with Ofcom to introduce 4G mobile internet and broadband by spring 2013, six months earlier than planned.
O2 and Vodafone have also agreed not to pursue legal action against Everything Everywhere (EE) over Ofcom's decision to allow the firm to separately introduce 4G this year by re-using its existing mobile spectrum.
EE is now expected to announce firm details on the availability of its own 4G offering and a range of compatible handsets for British consumers, including the much anticipated Long Term Evolution (LTE) iPhone 5. LTE is the type of 4G that UK operators will be deploying.
After the meeting, Miller welcomed the deal between the mobile operators, which will provide internet speeds on smartphones and tablets up to 10 times faster than current 3G, and also bring around £3bn to the UK economy.
"Delivering 4G quickly is a key part of our economic growth strategy. I am grateful to the mobile operators for their co-operation in bringing forward vital 4G services," said Miller.
"By speeding up the delivery of 4G in the UK, the government is creating enormous opportunities. It is up to the operators to now deliver the services that businesses and consumers expect and we are confident they will succeed."
Ofcom also welcomed the "significant progress" made in the delivery of a "competitive" market for 4G mobile services across the UK.
The agreement means that the Ofcom-administered 4G spectrum auction process will begin at the end of the year, and the regulator feels that the winners will be able to start rolling out their services "during the first half of 2013".
"The actions we have taken with industry and government avoids the risk of significant delay and is tremendous news for consumers who might otherwise have waited a considerable period for the next generation of mobile broadband services," Ed Richards, Ofcom chief executive, said.
"Ofcom's objective has always been to release the spectrum as early as possible and we remain focused on starting the auction by the end of the year."
Ofcom will oversee the sell-off of two spectrum bands - the 800Mhz frequency freed up by the end of the analogue television era in the UK and the 2.6 GHz band.
Following discussions with UK digital transmission company Arqiva, Ofcom has secured the release of the 800Mhz spectrum five months earlier than previously expected. This is because the digital television switchover is currently ahead of the schedule.
The clearance date for TV transmitters in Oxford and Waltham – which would otherwise prevent deployment of 4G mobile services to around 9 million people in cities including London, Birmingham, Coventry, Leicester, Nottingham and Sheffield - will now be brought forward by five months to May 2013.
The clearance date for transmitters which cover around 1m people in Glasgow and Edinburgh will also be brought forward three months to April 2013.
Ofcom said that this acceleration of the spectrum clearance programme will mean that "more UK consumers will be able to benefit from a competitive market for super-fast mobile broadband sooner than previously possible".
Separately, EE is now expected to start offering commercial LTE services to consumers later this month, after it was given permission by Ofcom to re-use its existing 1800 MHz spectrum to roll out 4G early.
The company, which includes the Orange and T-Mobile networks, intends to offer 4G to 16 UK cities covering more than 20m people by the end of the year. It hopes to provide the service to 98% of the UK by 2014.
Three has agreed a deal to buy some of EE's existing 4G-spectrum, but will not do so until September 2013.