Everything Everywhere plans to have sufficient 1800MHz spectrum cleared and ready to use for LTE before the end of 2012 — but is still pushing hard to be allowed preferential access to sub-1GHz LTE spectrum, a spokesperson said.
The spokesperson confirmed that the operator was doing everything it could to take advantage of the EU's mandate for countries to liberalise spectrum usage before the end of 2012.
"The EU mandate means that Ofcom must liberalise licenses for current spectrum bands before the end of this year, allowing us to refarm the spectrum we require as appropriate for 4G. Ofcom has acknowledged that and has said it would come back with its comments in March. Subject to Ofcom coming back with their approval, that would allow us to get our plans rolling to launch."
"Even without regulatory approval we are doing everything we need to do to make ourselves and our network 4G ready. Once we get that [approval] then we have a window of some months to carry on trialling and clearing spectrum and so on."
However, the plan to roll out quickly in 1800MHz does not mean that EE will drop its position on guaranteed access to 800MHz spectrum in the auction to be held at the end of 2012.
"We are still hopeful that Ofcom will review its position on 800MHz. While we could roll out on 1800MHz, the Cornwall trial has shown that 800MHz is key to rolling out in rural areas. 1800 is not great for that, and we still hope to redress the balance," the spokesperson added.
Asked why EE couldn't simply bid for 800MHz spectrum in competition with other operators, instead of looking for reservations, the spokesperson said it was EE's view that Vodafone and O2 hold a strong economic advantage as a result of their 900MHz spectrum, putting them in a better position to bid for more spectrum. Therefore EE still believes it should benefit from some guarantee of spectrum, to make sure it can reach rural areas.
Everything Everywhere must also sell off 2x15MHz of its 1800MHz spectrum, as a condition of regulatory approval for the Orange-T-Mobile merger that formed the company.