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4G mobile services can make a significant difference to UK broadband coverage and speeds, it has been claimed.

Matthew Howett, Practice Leader of Ovum Regulation, said the importance of launching next-generation services cannot be underestimated.

"With a commitment to have the best super-fast broadband in Europe by 2015, mobile is going to play an important role," he stated.

"The earliest route to 4G would be through Everything Everywhere’s 1800MHz spectrum and Ofcom is right to be considering this option."

However Mr Howett said consumers will only see the true benefit if there is competition between operators in the provision of services.

This can only be fully achieved through the joint award of spectrum at 800MHz and 2.6GHz planned for the end of this year, he claimed.

Mr Howett claimed that Ofcom has an "unenviable task" in finalising the design of that auction, and litigation looks "almost inevitable" unless there are some material changes to the current proposals.

"With no obvious way out of the deadlock, any legal challenge could send everyone back to the drawing broad," he stated.

"Only a direction from the UK government could keep the auction on track and this is something that it must now wake up to."

Mr Howett said that if pressure mounts on Ofcom to allow Everything Everywhere to use its existing 1800MHz now for 4G then it has to consider how to safeguard competition.

"It has at least a couple of options. It could consider imposing a wholesale access obligation on Everything Everywhere to allow other interested operators the opportunity to also launch services," he added.

"This could be removed once the award of new spectrum eventually takes place. However this would not be quick or easy."

Alternatively competition could come from whoever acquires the 1800MHz spectrum that the firm must divest, Mr Howett stated.

"At the moment the other operators do not hold sufficient quantities of 1800MHz spectrum to launch 4G in any compelling way," he added.

"This would require Ofcom preventing Everything Everywhere deploying 4G at 1800MHz until it has completed the sale of this spectrum."

Neither of these two options are ideal, Mr Howett argued.

He said this makes the importance of proceeding with the joint award of new spectrum at 800MHz and 2.6GHz later this year "that more important". 

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