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Everything Everywhere flexes 4G muscles at Ofcom, rivals

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Everything Everywhere switched on another 4G trial network yesterday, proving that it has the radio spectrum and the political support to deploy the high-speed mobile broadband standard in Blighty - if only the pesky regulator would let it.

The Cumbrian network was switched on by Education Secretary Michael Gove with local MP Rory Stewart edging into the pictures. Despite this backing, the trial will only last two months and be limited to 50 people, so the whole exercise is really about pushing Ofcom into letting EE take its 4G network wider.

The test is billed as the "first ever deployment of 4G technology", which then has to be qualified by "the North of England", and then again with "using airwaves available to bring 4G to the UK later this year", which makes sense as no one else has spare frequency in which to run 4G trials.

O2 has been trying out 4G at 2.6GHz, while EE (in conjunction with BT) has been testing 4G at 800MHz in Cornwall, but both bands will going under the hammer at auction in the tail end of 2012 so can't be said to be available this year.

UK Broadband has deployed LTE test networks at 3.5GHz. That's not a popular band despite being one of the 42 LTE-approved frequencies, which makes the kit a little more expensive. Last week the operator took us for a drive around Southwark to show how fast its network was while in motion (about 40Mb/sec). But despite its national licence UK Broadband's most-northerly deployment is Swindon, which, with the best will in the world can't claim to be in the North of England.

Ironically, T-Mobile - which these days forms half of Everything Everywhere with Orange - prevented 4G being deployed back in 2008. Back then it argued that the 2.6GHz band couldn’t valued, and thus auctioned, until the future of 900MHz (2G) and 800MHz (TV at the time, now empty) had been decided.

But that was then and this is now, and now EE reckons Ofcom and rival mobile operators are deliberately costing the UK economy £75bn a year in their, er, outrageous pursuit of a fair market in which companies compete on an equal footing.

EE argues that equality is impossible anyway, and a short monopoly is a price worth paying to get magical 4G networks deployed - as the hyperbolic trial press release says: "those who live in remote, rural Cumbria rarely have sufficient broadband. 4G will solve this problem." ®

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