Britain won't get 4G until 2015

The UK will not get a 4G network until 2015, according to plans from telecoms watchdog Ofcom which will mean that the Olympic games will have long gone.

In its draft annual plan for 2012/2013, Ofcom thinks that the roll-out of 4G mobile services will begin in 2013/14 and that “wide availability” will be achieved in 2015.

This pours chilled water on the hope that foreign visitors to the London Olympic games might be able to use the 4G phones they have at home in London.

The spectrum required for the 4G network was due to be auctioned off to network providers some time in 2012, but Ofcom has pushed that back to 2013.

The reason for the delay is nothing to do with the regulator and more to do with comms companies arguing about who gets what.

In November, a parliamentary committee has slammed mobile operators for scrapping over how to share the next-generation 4G spectrum.

MP John Whittingdale, the committee’s chair, said at the time that Ofcom had a difficult job adjudicating between competing and polarised interests. He was concerned that constant disagreement from the mobile network operators appears to have further delayed the spectrum auction.

Ofcom wants Three to remain as a competitor to the major networks, and set in place assurances to give Three a slice of the 4G spectrum at a discounted rate. But O2 and Vodafone have threatened legal action over the auction, claiming that “state-aid” would have them at an unfair disadvantage.

All this means that while the rest of the world moves to faster 4G, the UK will lag behind.  Thanks, O2 and Vodaphone.