The telecoms regulator approved an application by Everything Everywhere, which owns the T-Mobile and Orange networks, to use its existing 1800 MHz spectrum band to deliver high-speed LTE 4G services.
Ofcom said that the move would deliver “significant” benefits to consumers, which would outweigh any competition concerns.
The regulator said that delaying the availability of 4G, which will allow people to download data five-to-seven times faster than on existing 3G services, would be to the detriment of customers.
Ofcom plans to auction 4G bandwidth to rival network operators later in the year, allowing them to launch competing services.
Everything Everywhere said that the decision was “great news” for the UK. “4G will drive investment, employment and innovation and we look forward to making it available later this year, delivering superfast mobile broadband to the UK,” an Everything Everywhere spokesman said.
The mobile operator, which is backed by equal owners Deutsche Telekom and France Telecom, added that it plans to invest over £1.5 billion in the next three years to further improve its 4G LTE network.
The Telegraph is reporting that Everything Everywhere is advanced talks to sell part of its newly-acquired 1800MHz spectrum to network operator Three. It was previously reported that the slice of the spectrum could go for £450 million, but Everything Everywhere said that figure is overstated.
In May, independent research by Coleman Parkes found that 93% of UK businesses want 4G rolled out as soon as possible, and 94% of senior decision makers saying the UK needs it to remain competitive and protect jobs.
Research by Capital Economics, commissioned by Everything Everywhere, claimed that 4G could unlock £5.5 billion of direct private investment into the UK and create or safeguard 125,000 jobs over the next 3 years.
The research quotes Dan Wagner, CEO of secure card payment provider mPowa, as saying: “The introduction of 4G in the UK is long overdue because for far too long, the internet speeds we have had – both on mobile and to fixed locations – have been inferior to other parts of Europe and further afield."
"This will really enhance competitiveness in this ‘always on, always connected’ business landscape and will help companies offer much more comprehensive mobile services that are quicker and more flexible," he said.
The UK is lagging behind in terms of 4G LTE adoption, which has already been rolled out in more than 40 countries including Angola, Azerbaijan and Uzbekistan. Independent research carried out by ComRes in July showed that 83% of MPs surveyed want 4G to be available now.