Everything Everywhere sells 4G spectrum to 3

The merged mobile operator sells a portion of its 1800MHz spectrum to the smaller rival, meaning another 4G offering could be on the cards before the end of the year

Everything Everywhere has confirmed a deal with mobile network operator 3 to sell on part of its 1800MHz spectrum, which could enable the smaller operator to launch its own 4G services.  

The agreement to sell part of the spectrum band is one of the stipulations laid down by the European Commission that Orange and T-Mobile must follow if they are to merge under the banner of Everything Everywhere, ensuring their market dominance is not too strong.

However, it is also the frequency that Ofcom announced would be liberalised to allow the owner to use it for 4G services in the UK.

“Acquiring this spectrum will more than double the capacity available to customers on our network,” said Dave Dyson, CEO of 3 UK.

“New spectrum, supported by further committed technology spend, is a clear signal that we are committed to maintain our lead as the network built for the mobile internet,” he said.

3 would not confirm if it planned to launch a 4G network once the deal for the spectrum had gone through, but a spokesman from Ofcom told Computer Weekly it would be within the rules if 3 wanted to do so.

“It could use the spectrum for 4G as the decision made today applied to the whole band, not just the section Everything Everywhere will own once it has sold off the required portion,” he said. “The whole band has been liberalised and if this deal goes through 3 can use it in that way if it chooses.”

A total of 2x15 MHz of its 1800MHz spectrum will be transferred, but neither party confirmed how long it would take for the deal to go through. 

But Everything Everywhere said it expected the European Commission and Ofcom to decide within three months whether the deal covered the stipulation in its merger agreement and it would require approval from both regulators.

The deal could again cause a stir with the two operators’ rivals. Vodafone is already up in arms about this morning’s announcement that Everything Everywhere would be able to roll out 4G before it had even got its hands on its own spectrum – it won’t have the chance to secure any extra bands until the spectrum auction in December – and O2 said it “undermined the competitive environment for 4G in the UK”.

We contacted both firms for comment on the deal, but neither had formed a statement at the time of publication.  

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