Everything Everywhere rolls out the 4G astroturf
Celebrities line up to deny involvement
Everything Everywhere's attempt to garner public backing for its UK monopoly on 4G launched to angry responses today. EE has promised to inject £75bn into Blighty's economy if only the regulator would stand aside.
The operator wants Ofcom to approve its application to deploy LTE (aka "4G") in the swath of 1800MHz spectrum lying largely empty as a result of merging Orange and T-Mobile, arguing that any unfair lead it would give EE is worthwhile given the benefit to the UK economy of getting 4G launched.
We revealed the nature of the campaign 10 days ago in these very pages, but since then The Guardian has been chasing up rumours that everybody's favourite intellectual Stephen Fry was involved, along with Jonathan Ross, only for both celebs to deny it. In fact the campaign counts the Countryside Alliance and National Union of Farmers among its supporters, along with tech publications Gizmodo and T3.
El Reg was asked to join the campaign when we broke the story, but we made our excuses and declined.
As well as recruiting media and the less technically literate organisations, EE is backing up its campaign with a report claiming that 4G will provide the UK with a £75bn boost in productivity – which sounds impressive until you realise it was just calculated by working out how much faster everything would be downloaded using 4G and assuming that all the released time would be productively utilised.
So a five-minute video of dancing cats would download in one minute, rather than four, leaving one three minutes to build an extra widget, contributing the value of that widget to the benefit of the UK economy: it's hard to argue with logic like that.
Everyone wants 4G deployed in the UK, even (most likely) Jonathan Ross and the good Stephen Fry, but quite apart from the fact that handing a monopoly to the largest network operator in the UK sticks in the throat, it will almost certainly be challenged in the UK courts as anti-competitive. EE is hoping that its campaign will paint the litigants as the baddies, shifting the debate from the court of law to the court of public opinion.
The analysts at Ovum sum up the options open to Ofcom: it could delay EE's use of 1800MHz until after the mega-auction; it could require EE to allow other operators wholesale access so infrastructure could be built but so that EE wouldn't get the the publicity coup of a 4G monopoly; or, lastly, Ofcom could delay EE's permission until after it has sold off the 30MHz of bandwidth it is required to divest as a condition of the Orange/T-Mobile merger.
EE claims to be want to be shot of that spectrum, and has people in valuing it, so that seems like the most sensible option, though they'll be a lot more grandstanding and hyperbole before the Ofcom consultation on the matter closes next week. ®