Mobile operator O2 is in discussions with communications regulator Ofcom to bring the timeline of the much anticipated 4G auction forward, in what will be seen as an attempt to fight off competition from rival brand EE.
The news comes shortly after it was revealed that Apple’s latest iPhone offering will support EE’s soon to be rolled out LTE network, which will operate on 1800MHz spectrum.
EE is Everything Everywhere’s newly launched 4G brand.
An O2 spokesman said: "Yes, we are in discussions to bring the timeline forward."
EE was last month granted regulatory approval to use its existing 1800MHz spectrum to launch 4G services in the UK this year, several months ahead of its rivals who are currently waiting to buy 800MHz and 2.6GHz spectrum in an auction that is due to begin by December.
The three other mobile operators in the UK are currently locked in legal battles over the guidelines of the spectrum auction and have been further angered by EE’s head-start.
Apple’s iPhone 5 will not support the 800MHz and 2.6GHz auctioned spectrum, however, O2 will be able to offer 4G services on other enabled handsets on the market.
EE’s rivals are concerned that if EE is the only operator on the market to be selling 4G services it will attract a lot of their customers, who could then be tied into contracts for 24 months. However, the spectrum auction has been delayed for over a year and all of the mobile operators will have to settle their legal disputes quickly if they wish to catch up with EE’s rollout.
To confuse matters further, EE has agreed to sell 2X15MHz of its 1800MHz spectrum to Three, which was agreed as part of European competition rules when Orange and T-Mobile formed to become the single Everything Everywhere brand.
Although it hasn’t been confirmed that Three intends to use this spectrum for 4G services on the iPhone, nor has it gained regulatory approval from Ofcom to do so, it is a possibility that is likely to further anger Vodafone and O2.