Mobile operators Vodafone and Telefonica have hit out at Ofcom over plans to give rival Everything Everywhere a head start on 4G.
In a consultation report published by the regulator, Vodafone said the plans to allow Everything Everywhere a head start on 4G rollouts was “unjustifiable” and would seriously undermine competition in the UK.
Vodafone said that it "strongly believes" a competitive market in 4G services will bring long-term benefits to UK consumers.
"We would urge Ofcom to hold a full and fair spectrum auction as soon as possible, so that all operators can access the necessary spectrum for 4G,” the firm added in its response.
The mobile operator highlighted three fundamental errors with liberalising Everything Everywhere's 1800 spectrum, and Telefonica, which owns O2 in the UK, said "Ofcom is wrong on all counts".
“The consequence of granting immediate liberalisation would be the creation of a monopoly provider of 4G national wholesale services for a period of at least 18 months and very likely substantially longer,” Telefonica said in a statement.
Everything Everywhere, which owns the Orange and T-Mobile brands in the UK, said it should be allowed to proceed with plans and any advantage it has would be mitigated by an agreement to give up two 15MHz blocks in the 18000MHz spectrum. This, it said, was in line with European Commission commitments.
The company said it "wholly supports" Ofcom's intention to vary its licences for LTE, saying it should result in "considerable benefits" for end users.
"A failure to do so would not only be inconsistent with Ofcom's legal duties, but would also be of significant detriment to consumers and the wider UK economy," said the company.
"Any competitive advantage gained by Everything Everywhere would not endure beyond the point at which competitors are able to launch their own LTE services," it said.
"The consultation responses raise a number of detailed issues that Ofcom must now consider carefully," an Ofcom spokesman said in a statement. "We will publish a statement on the proposed variation as early as possible."