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Just talk - no advantage with 4G for EE - Stuart Hinkley, Head of TMT
07 September 2012

OFCOM have recently given top UK operator Everything Everywhere (EE) permission to use their 4G LTE spectrum from the 11th of this month. However, this has been subject to a barrage of criticism from other competitors Telefonica and Vodafone, complaining of an unfair advantage as they will have to wait till then end of the year. But when you look closely, how much of an advantage is this really?

EE are able to talk about 4G capabilities yes, but the plain fact is there are currently no 4G products in the UK marketplace. The rumours that the iPhone 5 will be 4G compatible are unsubstantiated and the iPad ‘3’ sold with wi-fi + 4G is not compatible with the 4G LTE UK network as it only works in American and Canadian frequencies – so still no advantage.

It is also important to remember that OFCOM have forced EE to sell off some of its network and this has already been purchased by 3. OFCOM is in no rush to auction off all the 4G licenses available, and at present aims to reach 98% of the population and 95% of the country by the end of 2017.  That may seem like a fast paced change, but when you consider that in the USA, Verizon (an LTE frequency provider), have 4G coverage in over 370 cities reaching 75% of the population, waiting a further 5 years to wrap up the regulation before the networks can be fully rolled out is not cutting edge. 

It seems then that initial 4G usage will be restricted to mobile dongs and although it will be possible to ship phones and other devices in with 4G capability, history has shown that mass market availability is preferred by consumers, rather than mass import – so again, it is unclear how much real commercial advantage will be gained. It will be great for EE’s networks to be able to talk about it and say they are the first 4G operator in the UK, but until there is a viable, mass market 4G LTE product available, it is all very much just talk.



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