Vodafone has admitted it won't launch its 4G mobile data service "until the end of the summer".
The mobile operator says it is investing 50 percent more on its networks to help cope with the 4G launch and other services, after already spending over £800 million on winning 4G sprectrum in an Ofcom auction this year.
Vodafone says it will spend £900 million on boosting the reach and performance of its UK networks this year, after spending £600 million last year.
The revelation of the delayed 4G launch - Vodafone has been selling expensive "4G ready" smartphones since the beginning of the spring and was expected by many to launch its 4G service much earlier - will be music to the ears of rival mobile operator EE.
EE, owner of the T-Mobile and Orange brands in the UK, launched its 4G service last year and claims its 4G network can already be reached by more than 50 percent of the homes and businesses in the UK after a staged roll-out.
The fact that Vodafone will only launch it 4G service at the end of the summer will invite questions as to how many will actually be able to get it from its launch, despite those customers paying much higher amounts to carry a 4G smartphone.
The latest iPhone is already equipped with the hardware to handle 4G on apparently any network, as is the latest Samsung Galaxy phone and the Z10 and Q10 models from Blackberry, among others.
Vodafone says its indoors 4G service will be available to 98 percent of the UK population by 2015.
Guy Laurence, Vodafone UK chief executive, told the Financial Times: "This investment is further evidence of our commitment to deliver our best ever network. We’re bringing together the best of mobile and fixed communications to help our business customers make their communications work for them."
He told the FT: "For consumers, it’s another important step towards the arrival of our ultra-fast 4G service later this year. We’re investing in vital national infrastructure that can help play an important role in supporting growth in the wider economy."
It's still not clear when mobile operators O2 and Three will launch their own 4G services, after also winning spectrum in the Ofcom auction. Last June Vodafone and O2 announced an infrastructure sharing deal that was supposed to quicken the roll-out of 4G services. With Vodafone delaying its 4G launch, O2 customers may assume their access will be tied to the fortunes of Vodafone.