Everything Everywhere bringing 4G to UK in September

Will the mobile phone conglomerate gain a valuable Apple boost?

Everything Everywhere, the mobile phone consortium made up of T-Mobile and Orange, has won approval from Ofcom to roll out an LTE service (more commonly, though perhaps incorrectly), known as "4G") on unused areas of its spectrum a year ahead of the official auction for LTE licenses.

The group is making the most of the fact that it, unlike its major UK competitors, has spare capacity on the 1800mhz portion of the spectrum, and will be launching the high-speed service on 11 September. Vodafone, O2 and Three have all expressed anger at Ofcom's move, with Vodafone giving a strident comment to The Verge's Vlad Savov:

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.

The line is an odd one. Allowing the only regulator with the technical capacity to improve their service to do so seems unlikely to be a net negative for the public at large. Far worse would be Ofcom artificially holding back the state of British technology just for perceived "fairness".

That's not to say Vodafone don't have anything to be angry about; the fact is that it could have moved just as fast as Everything Everywhere if the glacial pace of the digital switchover weren't holding up the spectrum it needs.

But why quite so mad? Well, Savov points out one very interesting point when it comes to the timing of Everything Everywhere's roll-out. They'll turn on the service on 11 September; on 12 September, Apple is expected to announce a new iPhone with LTE technology.

Savov writes:

The market edge that EE gains over its competitors by being first with fast mobile broadband would, in such a scenario, be exponentially magnified. Two of the hurdles to any carrier seeing rapid adoption — educating users about the benefits of the new technology and making them see value in paying a higher price — are central to Apple's strength as a company. In piggybacking on the prospective iPhone announcement, EE would enjoy the halo effect of having Apple conduct the LTE education sessions in advance, plus the comfort of knowing it can charge a premium without consumers scoffing (too much).

I certainly recall switching to O2 to get the original iPhone back when it was exclusive to that network; whether people will switch at the same rate to get a new iPhone on a faster network is something we will find out next month, it appears.

4G iPads sit in an Apple Store in Covent Garden. Photograph: Getty Images

Alex Hern is a technology reporter for the Guardian. He was formerly staff writer at the New Statesman. You should follow Alex on Twitter.

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Why Theresa May can't end speculation of an early general election

Both Conservative and Labour MPs regard a contest next year as the solution to their problems. 

One of Theresa May’s first acts as a Conservative leadership candidate was to rule out an early general election. After a tumultuous 2015 contest and the EU referendum, her view was that the country required a period of stability (a view shared by voters). Many newly-elected Tory MPs, fearful of a Brexit-inspired Ukip or Liberal Democrat surge, supported her on this condition.

After entering Downing Street, May reaffirmed her stance. “The Prime Minister could not have been clearer,” a senior source told me. “There won’t be an early election.” Maintaining this pledge is an important part of May’s straight-talking image.

But though No.10 has wisely avoided publicly contemplating an election (unlike Gordon Brown), the question refuses to die. The Conservatives have a majority of just 12 - the smallest of any single-party government since 1974 - and, as David Cameron found, legislative defeats almost inevitably follow. May’s vow to lift the ban on new grammar schools looks to many like an unachievable task. Former education secretary Nicky Morgan and former business minister Anna Soubry are among the Tories leading the charge against the measure (which did not feature in the 2015 Conservative manifesto).  

To this problem, an early election appears to be the solution. The Tories retain a substantial opinion poll lead over Labour, the most divided opposition in recent history. An election victory would give May the mandate for new policies that she presently lacks.

“I don’t believe Theresa May wishes to hold an early election which there is evidence that the country doesn’t want and which, given the current state of the Labour Party, might be seen as opportunistic,” Nigel Lawson told today’s Times“If, however, the government were to find that it couldn’t get its legislation through the House of Commons, then a wholly new situation would arise.”

It is not only Conservatives who are keeping the possibility of an early election alive. Many Labour MPs are pleading for one in the belief that it would end Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership. An early contest would also pre-empt the boundary changes planned in 2018, which are forecast to cost the party 23 seats.

For Corbyn, the possibility of an election is a vital means of disciplining MPs. Allies also hope that the failed revolt against his leadership, which Labour members blame for the party’s unpopularity, would allow him to remain leader even if defeated.

Unlike her predecessors, May faces the obstacle of the Fixed-Term Parliaments Act (under which the next election will be on 7 May 2020). Yet it is not an insurmountable one. The legislation can be suspended with the backing of two-thirds of MPs, or through a vote of no confidence in the government. Alternatively, the act could simply be repealed or amended. Labour and the Liberal Democrats, who have demanded an early election, would struggle to resist May if she called their bluff.

To many, it simply looks like an offer too good to refuse. Which is why, however hard May swats this fly, it will keep coming back. 

George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.