The latest agreement between the UK mobile industry and regulators represents a significant step toward the roll out of near-universally available 4G mobile coverage.
Introduction of 4G in the UK has been long dogged by differences between the operators through which regulator Ofcom has struggled to steer a successful course. Most recently, Ofcom was drawn into controversy by its decision to allow Everything Everywhere to use some of its existing spectrum for 4G purposes whilst the process for a fully-fledged auction of capacity (which would allow other mobile operators to compete for 4G capacity) continued on a significantly slower trajectory.
With concerns growing that renewed legal disputes could result in further significant delay, the UK Government took a direct role, brokering discussions between key players with a view to achieving a consensus on the way forward.
The agreement, announced by Maria Miller, the new Secretary of State of Culture Media and Sport agreeing on a way forward clears the way for Everything Everywhere to launch their services before the end of the year in parallel with an accelerated auction process open to both the other incumbents and to potential new entrants enabling a multiple operator roll-out of 4G services in the first half of 2013.
It requires all those who might be impacted by rollout to refocus on the revised timescale. This means that not only current (and potential new) network operators but the associated infrastructure players and funders, together with those who will look to exploit the business opportunities generated by new services, will need to reassess business plans.
As ever opportunities will also bring challenges but this cannot mask the sense of relief both in the industry and Government that the process could descend into protracted chaos.