Telecoms regulator Ofcom says it will allow Everything Everywhere – owners of Orange and T-Mobile in the UK – to launch 4G mobile data services using its existing bandwidth.
The decision means 4G services, which allow faster data speeds and downloads than existing 3G services, are expected to launch this year.
Other networks must wait for Ofcom to auction additional capacity for 4G – also referred to as LTE – services next year.
In a statement Ofcom said: “Although we consider it likely that EE will enjoy a competitive advantage during the period before other operators are able to launch their own LTE services, we consider on the evidence available that any such advantage is unlikely to result in an enduring advantage which distorts competition to the detriment of consumers.”
Everything Everywhere described the regulator’s decision as “great news for the UK” and said the new service would “drive investment, employment and innovation”.
Rival network O2 said it was “hugely disappointed with today’s announcement, which will mean the majority of consumers will be excluded from the first wave of digital services.”
O2 also claimed the decision “undermines the competitive environment for 4G in the UK.”