02/10/2012 08:50 BST | Updated 01/12/2012 10:12 GMT

UK 4G: Culture Secretary Maria Miller To Chair Meeting Designed To Avert EE Appeal

The UK's top mobile operators will meet with ministers in an attempt to avoid a potentially costly appeal after Everything Everywhere (EE) was allowed to launch a 4G LTE network ahead of its competitors.

The next-generation of mobile broadband has already been available in other countries, in some cases for several years, but the UK is still lagging behind.

Last month EE unveiled its eponymous 4G brand, which will launch using its existing spectrum, after a landmark decision by Ofcom to allow it to launch.

It had been thought other networks, possibly including O2 (Telefonica) and Vodafone, would oppose Ofcom's decision through the courts.

Vodafone said that the decision showed a "careless disregard" for the economy and consumers, while O2 had said it was "hugely disappointed".

But now it appears that a meeting on Tuesday chaired by Maria Miller, the new culture secretary, could help to prevent the appeal against Ofcom's decision.

Ministers will reportedly offer an early auction of new 4G spectrum in return for operators not launching a legal challenge against EE.

That could open the way for EE to launch its 4G coverage at the end of October.

The spectrum - which includes that used for terrestrial television - is expected to raise billions, but after several delays is currently scheduled to be auctioned in early 2013. The government is hoping that by guaranteeing an early auction it can convince network operators to drop their legal action.

EE has said that it will launch 4G is 16 cities by the end of 2012, once it gets the final go-ahead.

The company, which also operates Orange and T-Mobile, has been encouraging purchasers of the new 4G-enabled iPhone 5 to sign up via its current networks and then switch once EE's 4G plans become available.