Telecoms regulator Ofcom has agreed to allow Everything Everywhere, owner of the T-Mobile and Orange mobile networks, to launch a 4G service in the UK ahead of its rivals.
The decision has prompted a furious response this morning from Vodafone: "We are frankly shocked that Ofcom has reached this decision. The regulator has shown a careless disregard for the best interests of consumers, businesses and the wider economy through its refusal to properly regard the competitive distortion created by allowing one operator to run services before the ground has been laid for a fully competitive 4G market."
Vodafone says it "wholeheartedly supports" Secretary of State Jeremy Hunt's call for the 4G auction to take place in December and demands that Ofcom "finally does its job and produces a competitive market for 4G services as soon as possible".
Earlier this year Vodafone, O2 and Three demanded a block on Everything Everywhere being granted approval to reuse some of its existing spectrum for next-generation data services.
In July, Ofcom announced that the full 4G network auction would begin at the end of this year and that 4G services would come to the UK in late 2013.
More after the break
However, Everything Everywhere applied to Ofcom to be able to use some of its existing spectrum for 4G services. The company has been installing the necessary equipment since the beginning of the year and already has some major population centres covered. It could start selling 4G services to customers before Christmas.