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6/4/2013
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Vodafone Preps U.K. LTE Debut

Telecom will double its infrastructure spending to £900 million over the fiscal year to expand its 4G footprint.

The race to get U.K. cell and mobile broadband users excited about LTE, or 4G as it is known in the U.K., seems to be heating up with the announcement that service provider Vodafone plans to double its infrastructure spending for what now seems to be an end of summer LTE debut.

The firm said Monday that it will spend £900 million ($1.4 billion) in its current fiscal year on 4G. It reported revenue of £44 billion ($57 billion) for its most recent fiscal year, which ended March 31.

Vodafone had already spent some £790 million ($1.2 billion), in what has come to be seen as a low-key British LTE spectrum auction in February, to secure 20 years' hold on two 10-MHz regions in the 800-MHz band and the same number at the 20-MHz frequency in the 2.6-GHz band, plus an additional 25 MHz of unpaired spectrum in the 2.6-GHz band, to launch a 4G service.

[ Wonder what Verizon has on tap in Europe? Verizon Chief Talks Europe, M&A Strategy. ]

The news was framed by the company's U.K. chief executive Guy Laurence as "great news" for both British consumer and business customers of the operation's combined fixed-line and mobile network.

"It is also great news for the country," he claimed, as it indicates how his firm is "investing in vital national infrastructure" that can help play "an important role in supporting growth in the wider economy."

Vodafone may draw on its experience as the first 4G provider in Spain; it launched the service in seven Spain cities in late May. What's particularly interesting to British LTE watchers is that the extra high-speed connectivity is available to existing Spain subscribers as part of their regular service and to other customers for just of €9 ($12) extra -- which if repeated in the U.K. would offer sharp competition to the existing 4G incumbent, EE, which is offering 4G-only packages starting at £31 ($47).

Vodafone may have deep enough pockets to launch an aggressive pricing war and grab British 4G market share if it indeed sells its stake in Verizon Wireless, reportedly worth a potential $130 billion to Vodafone.

Vodafone has already launched 4G in other European markets including Italy, Greece, Romania and Portugal, as well as South Africa and New Zealand.

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