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Orange and T-Mobile's rivals get time to challenge 4G plan

Regulator Ofcom has extended the time for networks to complain about Orange and T-Mobile's plan for a 4G network before their rivals.

Regulator Ofcom has extended the time for networks to register their opposition to Orange and T-Mobile's plan to create a 4G network, which would see them pip their rivals as they sit in wait for the government's 4G spectrum sell-off.

The pair merged to form Everything Everywhere in 2011, and in sharing their network, they've freed up a load of radio waves in the 1,800MHz spectrum. Everything Everywoo wants to use that spectrum for 4G transmission, giving Orange and T-Mobile a headstart in the 4G race. In fact, they'll be the only game in town until Ofcom auctions off 4G spectrum to the other networks next year.

The telecoms watchdog has pushed back its decision on the company's proposed 4G network, giving rival phone firms more time to challenge the plan. Opponents of Orange and T-Mobile can get all mardy with Ofcom until 8 May, an extra few weeks on top of the original 17 April deadline. 

Three reckons it should have a portion of the spectrum reserved so it has a fair shake in the auction. But even if that happens, Three and the other networks will still be left in the dust if Everytalkie Everywalkie gets its way.

O2 has already spoken out against Orange and T-Mobile's 4G plan, while Vodafone also threw its toys out of the pram. A legal challenge from one or both networks is likely if the Everybing Everybong plan is approved.

4G or not 4G

There's also controversy over the very use of the term '4G'. It's been applied willy-nilly to any connection technology faster than 3G, but technically none of them count as official 4G. The new iPad has been criticised for advertising itself as 4G in countries that don't have 4G networks the iPad can use, like Australia and good old Blighty.

In fact, if we're really splitting hairs, the WiMax and LTE networks billed as 4G in the US aren't technically 4G either. Confused.com!

Whatever we call it, improved web-connecting speeds can only be a good thing for consumers, especially as other countries are leaving us behind on mobile data speeds. So here at CNET, we want to see these unseemly squabbles wrapped up before someone grazes a knee and goes home crying. With the current delay, Ofcom has bought itself some time to think of a way to avoid the embarassment of a further delay due to legal challenges.

Are you frustrated by the network quibbling over 4G? Should Everything Everywhere be allowed to carve out a monopoly before spectrum auction? Why can't everybody just get along? Tell me your thoughts in the comments or on our Facebook wall.