Customers on Vodafone and O2 will be able to join EE users on 4G LTE networks by the end of summer 2013 thanks to a new peace agreement between the carriers.
Following crunch talks with culture secretary Maria Miller on Tuesday, the networks have put legal differences aside to ensure that EE cannot get too far ahead in the race for faster mobile connectivity.
EE, which owns Orange and T-Mobile, plans to launch its 4G LTE network next month and will offer next generation speeds for devices like the Apple iPhone 5 and maybe a 4G version of the Samsung Galaxy S3.
The new agreement between the remaining networks comes following a failure to prevent EE getting the jump-start, and will mean the long-awaited spectrum auction can now be brought forward to January.
'Hugely beneficial for UK'
Ofcom, the UK's communications regulator, had initially planned to hold the auction in February or March, but now all parties will be able to press on with establishing the infrastructure once the spectrum has been allocated.
Following the agreement, Miller, who recently took over from Jeremy Hunt as culture secretary, said: "Delivering 4G quickly is a key part of our economic growth strategy.
"I am grateful to the mobile operators for their co-operation in bringing forward vital 4G services. The open and collaborative approach taken between the government and the mobile companies will have hugely beneficial results for UK business and investment.
"We anticipate that 4G services will boost the UK's economy by around £2-3bn."
Clearing TV signals
Once the spectrum has been allocated, it will be up to mast company Arqiva to clear the spectrum, which was being used for digital TV services, so it can be replaced by 4G connectivity.
Ofcom has now brought the deadline forward to May for that task to be completed. This will then enable the networks to roll out the 4G LTE networks months ahead of schedule.
O2 CEO Ronan Dunne said expressed frustration at the delay, but pointed towards the future.
"Everyone is pleased that we've made this progress," he said. "it's just a little bit frustrating that it's taken so long. Before our various interventions we didn't have a genuine level playing field and we risked a 4G digital divide."
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