Under fire from rivals unhappy at it taking the lead, UK 4G network EE has shot back with suggestions that Vodafone and O2 could have been LTE competitive had they planned ahead properly. Speaking at a pre-launch benchmarking session, EE director of network services and device development Tom Bennett dismissed complaints by the carrier’s competitors as being selective with the facts, arguing instead that lack of investment is to blame for their being behind.
Vodafone and O2 have been vocal in their fury over EE – a combo carrier of Orange and T-Mobile UK – being allowed to launch an LTE network so soon, while they wait out for the Ofcom spectrum sale. “The regulator has shown a careless disregard for the best interests of consumers, businesses and the wider economy” Vodafone said in a statement back in August, “through its refusal to properly regard the competitive distortion created by allowing one operator to run services before the ground has been laid for a fully competitive 4G market.”
However, Bennett has little time for Vodafone and O2’s arguments that they are dependent on acquiring new spectrum rights in the 2013 auction. Instead, the 4G expert suggests, the other carriers are merely reaping the rewards of poor forward planning, having used their 900MHz spectrum holdings to bolster 3G coverage, for instance.
Orange and T-Mobile UK, in contrast, have been building out EE’s LTE infrastructure since the beginning of the year, Bennett pointed out, and have been planning the roll-out for some time ahead of that. Competitor fury, he counters, involves being selective with what facts and details are emphasized.
As for compatibility issues, which for instance sees the iPhone 5 only supporting the LTE bands EE will use in the UK, and not those Vodafone or O2 intend to use, Bennett believes the headache will be short-lived. Within a year, he suggests, chipsets which support all the bands in use will be prevalent – at least in the UK market – and consumers will be back to a situation where they can swap SIMs between phones without worrying about whether they’ll be limited to 3G.