Orange/T-Mobile are launching a new 4G mobile phone service under the brand Everything Everywhere (EE), the name they gave themselves when the two networks merged.
There’s been a bit of controversy around the 4G roll-out though. OFCOM, which is responsible for licensing the spectrum that 4G mobile networks will use, has given EE permission to use some of the spectrum it already owns to roll out 4G services ahead of the auction for the rest of the spectrum. Other mobile phone providers reckon this is a bit unfair as they don’t have any spare spectrum and EE only have spare spectrum because OFCOM gave them a big chunk for free a few years ago. They thought that was unfair at the time as well but nothing came of it.
Three make a bit of a fuss about the way the 4G auction was going to be run, saying that it gave an unfair advantage to the big four networks who already had lots of spectrum. They have since done a deal with EE to run their own 4G services over their network. It’s a logical extension of the mast-sharing deal they currently have with Orange.
The 4G launch will be an Apple-free zone with only Windows 8 and Android phones expected in the first year and although Apple is rumoured to be preparing a 4G version of the iBrick it might not work with EE’s network.
It does seem a little unfair that EE are getting to launch their 4G network early but while it gives them an advantage at the outset being the only 4G provider, they’re going to find themselves running a network on the wrong frequency with a limited set of handsets as a result. They’ll buy more spectrum in the auction and then spend stupid money running the two alongside each other. This fragmentation happens in the US and it’s a nightmare – you get entire cities with only one operator because the mobile network has been built non-standard and no other operator’s handsets work.
Whatever happens, the rollout of 4G can only be a good thing. Fixed line broadband really has had its day – wireless has virtually limitless possibilities and can provide high speed data connections where laying miles of copper wires or fibre optics just aren’t an option. The only thing that is likely to hold it back is divergence as a result of EE’s early adoption and companies spending stupid money in the spectrum auctions and not having enough cash to invest in building the new networks.