O2 brewing fresh legal challenge to delay 4G this year?

The mobile operator isn't happy with Everything Everywhere's plan to reuse 2G spectrum for 4G services this year, and it's written to Ofcom to say so.

Just as it looked like 4G might finally be coming to the UK this year, after Ofcom okayed Everything Everywhere's plan to reuse its 2G spectrum , a fresh legal challenge is brewing from a distinctly disgruntled O2 that could throw a spanner in the works of a 2012 4G rollout.

The Guardian is reporting that Telefonica, O2's parent company, has written to telecoms regulator Ofcom threatening to challenge its decision to allow EE to reuse its 2G spectrum for 4G services this year.

O2's beef -- and indeed fellow EE rival Vodafone's -- is that EE will gain a headstart of up to a year on rivals that have to wait to acquire new spectrum next year.

Vodafone described itself as "frankly shocked" after Ofcom announced its decision, adding: "The regulator has shown a careless disregard for the best interests of consumers, businesses and the wider economy." (And doubtless muttering under its breath about flagrant disregard for the best interests of its bottom line.)

O2 was a little more moderated in its response, saying it was "hugely disappointed", adding: "This decision undermines the competitive environment for 4G in the UK."  

O2 is apparently channelling its anger and disbelief into furious letter writing -- warning Ofcom it intends to appeal against the ruling at the Competition Appeals Tribunal (CAT), according to The Guardian report.

It notes that as part of this appeal, O2 could seek an interim relief -- which would have the effect of blocking EE's 4G network until a decision is reached, thereby dashing the hopes of UK gadget lovers of getting speedier mobile Internet this year.

The paper also understands O2 issued EE with an ultimatum giving the company until earlier this week to call off its planned 4G launch.

O2 would not confirm if it plans to appeal to the CAT. It told me, "We are unable to comment in relation to the (Guardian) article."

EE has also been firing shots across the bows of rival operators. Earlier this month, CEO Olaf Swantee told the FT the company would consider legal action to further delay next year's spectrum auction if its rivals tried to derail its plans for 4G this year.

Are you desperate to get a mobile speed boost this year? Or happy to kick back and wail til 2013? Let me know in the comments below or shout all about it over on our Facebook page.

About the author

Natasha Lomas is the Mobile Phones Editor for CNET UK, where she writes reviews, news and features. Previously she was Senior Reporter at Silicon.com, covering mobile technology in the business sphere. She's been covering tech online since 2005.


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