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O2 rails against Orange and T-Mobile 4G plan

O2 has joined Vodafone in moaning about Ofcom's decision to allow Everything Everywhere to kick off 4G in the UK this year.

O2 has joined Vodafone in a moan about Ofcom's plan to let Orange and T-Mobile get 4G services in the UK up and running by the end of this year. The oxygenated operator says the watchdog's decision is "contradictory to its objective of delivering a competitive market environment". Miaow!

United under the ludicrous Everything Everywhere banner, Orange and T-Mobile are looking to get faster connections like HSPA+ 42 (which provides theoretical speeds of up to 42Mbps) rolled out to customers on those networks before the end of 2012, using its existing spectrum.

But O2 and Vodafone are miffed that those networks could get to use existing chunks of spectrum for so-called 4G services, rather than waiting until an official spectrum auction.

In a post on its site O2 says, "From the very start of this process, Ofcom has said that the UK must retain a competitive market environment and that it will remove the ability for operators to behave strategically over spectrum allocation."

The bubbly network continues, "We are concerned that Ofcom's other proposal to allow one operator to launch 4G early on its existing spectrum is contradictory to its objective of delivering a competitive market environment with four competing players.

"This could expose the process to further risk of delay."

Vodafone took a similar pop at the decision recently, with network chief Guy Laurence blasting Ofcom, saying it had "taken leave of its senses" in allowing its rival to kick off 4G networks this year. He warned that Everything Everywhere would be given a "head start on the next generation of mobile Internet services", and would be "free to bog down" the upcoming spectrum auction with annoying litigation.

That may be so, but I suspect Orange and T-Mobile customers won't be complaining.

Ofcom has said it's "minded to allow" the variation in licences that would let Everything Everywhere use its 1,800MHz band for 4G, noting that it would bring benefits to consumers and writing in the consultation document (PDF link) that, "Our provisional conclusion is that there is no material risk of a distortion of competition if Everything Everywhere is permitted to use the 1,800MHz band to deploy LTE and/or WiMax technology at the earliest opportunity."

The spectrum auction itself has already been delayed by legal action on behalf of the UK's four big networks. Ofcom said that because of the difficulties, operators won't be able to roll out 4G networks "until 2013 at the earliest".

The closing date for responses to Ofcom's plans to give Orange and T-Mobile the go-ahead is 17 April. What do you think? Should Everything Everywhere be allowed to get 4G to the masses as quickly as possible? Or should all the networks be made to wait until the upcoming spectrum auction? Let me know your thoughts below, or on our Facebook wall.