British mobile carrier Three is set to announce a wider rollout of its HSPA 42.2Mbps network tomorrow in a move which could enable it to further delay the long-awaited LTE auction, according to The Guardian. Currently, Three operates an HSPA 21.1Mbps network in the majority of the country, but has previously claimed that it could reach the capacity of this system unless LTE spectrum becomes available soon. Upgrading its current network will remove this time pressure, and could give Three the option of raising a legal challenge if it feels that the rules of the spectrum auction are unfair.
The UK lags behind the US and many other European countries in the deployment of LTE, with the auction for spectrum licenses not set to happen until 2013 at the earliest. As the smallest of the UK's main networks with around 10 percent of market share, Three is concerned that it could lose out to O2, Vodafone, and Everything Everywhere (Orange and T-Mobile) in the 800MHz spectrum — a band it sees as crucial to maintain its competitiveness. Meanwhile, Everything Everywhere is forging ahead with an LTE network based on the 1800MHz band, and has plans to bid on the 800MHz spectrum when it becomes available.
A spokesperson for rival network Vodafone told The Guardian that it doesn't believe that there is a case for reserving spectrum for Three prior to the auction, and that regulator Ofcom "should stop trying to over-engineer the release of new spectrum to run the next generation of mobile internet services and simply run a fair and open auction as soon as possible." We're sure that the latter part is a sentiment shared by many data-hungry Brits, however until the rules of an auction are decided upon, Everything Everywhere might be our only choice for next-generation mobile data.