The UK’s mobile operators have agreed a new timetable for the roll-out of 4G services.

At a meeting with communications regulator Ofcom and the government, rival operators agreed to settle their differences and get services up and running quickly.

The government said high-speed data services should launch by spring 2013, six months earlier than planned.

O2 and Vodafone have agreed not to pursue legal action against EE.

Both had been unhappy that EE had been granted permission to add 4G to its existing network later this year.

Co-operation

EE is likely to announce when its services will go live imminently.

“Delivering 4G quickly is a key part of our economic growth strategy,” said Culture Secretary Maria Miller.

“I am grateful to the mobile operators for their co-operation in bringing forward vital 4G services.”

A combination of factors, from a change of government to threats of legal action from operators, had slowed down the process to free up spectrum used by analogue television broadcasts.

While the auction of the airwaves made available by the digital switchover is still scheduled for January next year, clearing them for 4G use will happen far more quickly than originally envisaged.

Ofcom said that it had secured the earlier release of frequencies that were previously used for digital-terrestrial broadcasting.

Ed Richards, Ofcom chief executive, said: “The actions we have taken with industry and government avoid the risk of significant delay and are tremendous news for consumers who might otherwise have waited a considerable period for the next generation of mobile broadband services.”

Three was the first operator to comment, following the meeting.

A spokesman said: “We see this as positive step for UK consumers by removing the monopoly on LTE that would have benefitted just one operator.” LTE, or Long Term Evolution, is the flavour of 4G that UK operators will be deploying.

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