O2 and Vodafone to go 4G in spring, ahead of schedule

Ofcom will be freeing up new spectrum earlier than planned, letting UK operators get their 4G services up and running.

4G services from major UK operators could be rolling out as soon as spring next year, as watchdog Ofcom has secured the freeing up of the necessary spectrum ahead of time.

The required frequencies, which are being freed up by the digital TV switchover, will be auctioned off at the start of next year. Operators including O2 and Vodafone should be able to get their next-gen services up and running by spring 2013, the BBC reports.

Operators met yesterday to have a friendly chinwag over the future of 4G. Companies like O2 and Vodafone have dragged their heels over the speedier service in the past, but with rival network EE poised to deploy its own 4G network in a matter of weeks, they'll now be scrambling to get their own 4G gubbins up and running as soon as possible.

EE will use the 1,800MHz spectrum for its 4G service -- a chunk of bandwidth it already owned, hence the headstart on rival networks. Underdog operator Three is set to acquire some of EE's bandwidth, but that probably won't happen until September next year. O2 and Vodafone have agreed not to take legal actions against EE's new network.

4G isn't even live yet, but already it's the source of a lot of mobile drama. The iPhone 5 for instance, while 4G-enabled, will only work with EE's network -- bad news for O2- and Vodafone-bound Apple fans. Labour says the money raised from next year's auction should be pumped into affordable homes for first-time buyers.

We've already tested 4G speeds on the first LTE phones in the UK, including the Samsung Galaxy S3 LTE and the HTC One XL. We've found speeds to be potentially impressive so far, but actual performance is likely to vary hugely. 

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