Ofcom proposals to allow 4G mobile services this year

13 March 2012

Mainstream 4G mobile services could be available in the UK as early as this year, under proposals outlined today by Ofcom.

The mobile phone operator Everything Everywhere has submitted an application to Ofcom to use its existing spectrum to deliver 4G services. Allowing Everything Everywhere to reuse its spectrum in this way is likely to bring material benefits to consumers, including faster mobile broadband speeds and - depending on how Everything Everywhere uses the spectrum - potentially wider mobile broadband coverage in rural areas.

Ofcom has considered whether allowing Everything Everywhere to use this spectrum in this way would distort competition, and provisionally concluded that it would not. And given the benefits this would bring to consumers, Ofcom is minded to allow this change of use.

Interested parties have four weeks in which to submit their views on this proposed change. The consultation can be found here.



  1. The term 4G is generally used to refer to mobile broadband services delivered using the next generation of mobile broadband technologies including Long Term Evolution (LTE) and WiMAX. It is ideally suited for wide bandwidth data services such as video streaming, email, messenger services, GPS and mapping services and social networking sites. It is the successor to 3G and 2G.
  2. The UK is required to consider applications for liberalised 4G use of the 900 MHz and 1800 MHz spectrum in light of a Decision of the European Commission (2011/251/EU) which amends a prior European Commission Decision (2009/766/EC).
  3. In the 1990s, mobile phone companies were awarded varying amounts of spectrum at 900 MHz and 1800 MHz with a condition that it could only be used for 2G services - mainly voice calls and text messages.
  4. In 2011, Ofcom ruled that 2G spectrum could be used for 3G, as part of plans to liberalise spectrum use. Today, Ofcom has proposed to allow 4G use as well - to meet the growing demand from internet connected devices such as smartphones and laptops.
  5. UK Broadband also announced in February 2012 that it will launch a 4G network this year. Using its 3.5 GHz spectrum, it plans to offer commercial 4G services from May 2012 on a wholesale basis. The network will initially cover the Southbank and Borough areas of Southwark.