Everything Everywhere (EE) recently announced that they were going to launch LTE using 1800Mhz. But are they genuinely doing it just to speed up 4G their deployment, or to increase interest in their 1800Mhz spectrum sale?
Without EE announcing that they were going to use their 1800Mhz spectrum in order to launch 4G services early, there were very few reasons for any other operators to buy.
The auctions for 800Mhz licenses should be going ahead later this year. As 800Mhz has advantages over 1800Mhz, it would make sense for operators to just wait for the auctions to obtain the spectrum needed to operate 4G services.
However, now EE have made this move, the other operators might be concerned about letting EE have such a long head start. While 1800Mhz isn’t traditionally considered to be prime LTE spectrum, it looks like it is becoming an increasingly attractive option for spectrum-starved operators throughout Europe.
With the confirmation that EE will indeed be using their 1800Mhz for LTE, other operators may start to eye up EEs spectrum sale with increased intensity.
Providing that there are no further delays to the spectrum auction by Ofcom, 4G at the 800Mhz and 2600Mhz frequencies could be ready to go by the end of 2013, while EE are likely to be ready to commence a national rollout by the end of 2012.
Would EE be willing to go to the trouble of converting some of their current 2G frequencies to 4G, unless there were other benefits, given that they will be getting <1year head start? I’m not so sure.
By announcing this rollout now, EE are aiming to increase the selling price of the spectrum they are being forced to sell off. Until this announcement, there was no incentive for any of the other networks to pick up the 1800Mhz spectrum – they were all able to safely wait until the Ofcom auctions before any of their competitors would be rolling out 4G. They are now no longer able to do so.
This obviously isn’t a bad thing for consumers. The UK is currently lagging behind other countries in 4G deployment – this will go some way to catching up.
But it will be interesting to see who picks up EEs spectrum, and at what price.