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Ofcom speeds up 4G roll out

Rival 4G networks to launch spring 2013

4G mobile network

Ofcom has brought forward the roll out of 4G services in the UK.

Regulator Ofcom has been under fire from mobile operators such as O2 and Vodafone after allowing EE to launch its 4G network early. It has now announced that rival 4G networks can be launched as early as spring next year. See also: Everything Everywhere launches 4G in UK with new brand.

Ed Richards, chief executive of Ofcom said: "The actions we have taken with industry and government avoids the risk of significant delay and is tremendous news for consumers who might otherwise have waited a considerable period for the next generation of mobile broadband services."

"Ofcom’s objective has always been to release the spectrum as early as possible and we remain focused on starting the auction by the end of the year."

See also: EE 4G in the UK: what you need to know.

It was looking like EE would have a monopoly on 4G for almost a year since Ofcom granted it to use existing 1800MHz spectrum which it already owned. The firm will launch 4G to the public in the next few weeks but Ofcom's announcement means it won't have a monopoly for nearly as long.

Three has an agreement with EE to use some of its 4G spectrum but this is unlikely to happen until the latter part of 2013. See also: 4G vs 3G network hands-on speed test.

The 800MHz and 2.6GHz spectrums being auctioned off over the next few months now has clearance to be used around five months earlier than expected. This was made possible by better than expected progress with the digital switchover.

"This progress means that the 4G auction process is on track to begin at the end of the year to enable competitive 4G services across UK during the first half of 2013." said Ofcom.

4G smartphones went on sale today including the Samsung Galaxy S3 LTE. Apple's iPhone 5 will only work on EE's 4G network because it is only compatible with the 1800MHz spectrum.

Follow Chris Martin and @PCAdvisor on Twitter.

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