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Ofcom has welcomed the "significant progress" made this week in moving towards the delivery of competitive 4G mobile services across the UK.

The government recently announced plans to move the 4G spectrum auction forward, in a move which should allow next-generation mobile services to be provided in the 800MHz and 2.6GHz frequency bands by spring 2013.

This came after O2 and Vodafone agreed to drop plans for legal action against the decision to allow EE to launch 4G this month using its spare 1,800MHz spectrum.

As such, Orange and T-Mobile customers will be able to access 4G services from October 30th - with 16 cities due online by the new year.

Three may also be able to launch 4G broadband soon, having agreed to purchase some of EE's 1,800MHz spectrum - as required by competition rules.

Other broadband providers will be able to launch their own services - supported by super-fast dongles and Mi-FI devices - from early 2013.

Ed Richards, Chief Executive at Ofcom, said the actions it has taken with the broadband industry and government have avoided "significant delay".

He said this is "tremendous news" for consumers, who might otherwise have waited "a considerable period" for the super-fast mobile broadband services.

Many other countries around the world have already established 4G networks, meaning the UK has been at risk of falling further behind.

And this is a situation the government and communications regulator have been looking to remedy, by creating the right environment for the launch of next-generation services.

"Ofcom’s objective has always been to release the spectrum as early as possible," Mr Richards stated.

"We remain focused on starting the auction by the end of the year,"

Over the last 18 months Ofcom has consulted widely on how it proposes to auction the spectrum available in the 800MHz and 2.6GHz bands.

The media regulator is required to ensure this process creates a competitive market, with rival network operators given fair opportunity to take advantage of 4G services.

Following discussions with TV broadcasters, Digital UK and the transmission company Arqiva, Ofcom has secured the earlier release of frequencies previously used for digital-terrestrial broadcasting.

"This spectrum will now be cleared and ready for 4G mobile services across much of the UK five months earlier than previously planned, from spring 2013," Ofcom explained.

"This has only become possible in the past few months as a result of the significant progress that has been made to date with the digital switchover and the clearance programme itself, which has been running ahead of schedule."

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