Britain will have access to superfast 4G mobile Internet services by the end of the year, communications watchdog Ofcom said on Tuesday after approving its launch by telecoms providers Orange and T-Mobile.
Regulator Ofcom said Everything Everywhere -- formed by the merger of the Orange and T-Mobile brands in Britain -- has controversially been given a six-months headstart over rivals, triggering a hostile reaction from Vodafone.
"Ofcom has today approved an application by the mobile phone operator Everything Everywhere (EE) to use its existing 1800 MHz spectrum to deliver 4G services," the regulator said in a statement.
"Following a consultation, Ofcom has concluded that varying EE's 1800 MHz licences now will deliver significant benefits to consumers, and that there is no material risk that those benefits will be outweighed by a distortion of competition.
"Delaying doing so would therefore be to the detriment of consumers," Ofcom added.
But Vodafone hit back, saying in a statement: "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."
An Everything Everywhere spokesperson called Ofcom's decision good news for Britain.
"4G will drive investment, employment and innovation and we look forward to making it available later this year, delivering superfast mobile broadband to the UK," the spokesperson said.
Britain is lagging behind the global rollout of 4G, with some 45 countries -- including the United States, Germany, and parts of Asia -- already offering the superfast service to businesses and consumers.
And while leading mobile phones already offer 4G download speeds, not all are able to work on the frequency being offered by Everything Everywhere -- a brand created in 2010.
Orange, owned by France Telecom, and Deutsche Telekom's T-Mobile, merged their British operations two years ago, cutting jobs in the process.
Explore further: In Brief: Britain awards spectrum licenses to 12 companies