EE gets its 4G head start this October

Everything Everywhere – rebranded EE – has announced when it will launch Britain’s first 4G network across the country, 30 October 2012. This will include mobile 4G as well as a fibre broadband service.

EE will offer 4G services to 16 UK cities this year. It is aiming for 98 percent coverage by 2014. 

Olaf Swantee promised the press that the rollout will be a “significant milestone for the United Kingdom, and for the people and businesses of our country who will now be able to enjoy the huge advantages of superfast 4G technology for the first time”. For the first time, of course, unless they’ve been to countries that already have 4G networks for a while now, including the USA and Germany. 

There have been long lasting controversies surrounding building the 4G network. The Coalition government itself was alleged to have stopped Ofcom from going ahead with the auction way back in 2010. After another 18 months, the delay was believed, Labour MP Helen Goodman said, to have been hitting the country in the pocket.

In January, Andrew Ferguson at ThinkBroadband said that the government hadn’t got its priorities straight: “Questioning of why the auctions have been so delayed, and why we continue to have a slow style consultation processes, rather than simply getting on with the auction and actual network implementation is something that must be done,” he said.

“We are told by the current Government that the e-economy is important to the UK, but the level of investment and political pressure applied to firms and regulators to ensure infrastructure projects such as the 4G roll-out do not seem to carry the same level of importance as road and rail infrastructure projects.”

When the ball finally got rolling, Ofcom was then criticised by Everything Everywhere rival Vodafone – now merged with O2 to offer its own 4G networks – of giving the company an unfair advantage, fearing that for the time being, its own services would be Nothing, Nowhere.

Top exec Guy Laurence said Ofcom took “leave of its senses” by handing over the first 4G services to EE, and claimed the organisation was “all but agreeing to grant the largest player in the market a headstart on the next generation of mobile internet services”.

Critics accused Vodafone of throwing its toys out of the pram because it wanted to milk more money from 3G services before switching to 4G.

Comtek CEO Ashar Sheibani put the boot in to Ofcom and Everything Everywhere, claiming that estimated figures about boosts to the economy were largely exaggerated. Sheibani also suggested EE was pushing for a faster roll-out so it could get a head-start on fashioning a monopoly before the competition got a chance. The Vodafone and Telefonica joint deal suggests further convergence of the big players. 

Now, the Guardian reports, the big telcos have signed a truce which should offer to close the gap on EE’s head start and bring 4G to the UK quicker than expected. New culture secretary Maria Miller revealed that there will be nationwide 4G services running on multiple networks by the end of next Summer.

A presentation, the Guardian reports, put the blame squarely on Ofcom. The regulator said Ofcom’s objective has “always been to release the spectrum as early as possible”.

Keen 4G-hungry T-Mobile and Orange customers can buy a Samsung Galaxy S3 LTE, HTC One XL, and the Huawei Ascend P1 LTE, which will be ready for a 4G upgrade, reports TechRadar. iPhone 5 users will be expecting an upgrade to 4G, and the Samsung Galaxy Note 2 LTE will also be 4G ready on EE, as Apple’s promises of offering 4G are actually realised.