The owner of T-Mobile and Orange is set to steal a march on its rivals after being given the go-ahead to launch superfast mobile internet.
Everything Everywhere has been told by regulator Ofcom that it can use some of its existing spectrum for 4G services from later this year - before the industry's auction of airwaves due to take place in 2013.
Rival Vodafone said it was shocked by the decision but Ofcom said allowing the application to vary the existing licence was in consumers' best interests.
Ofcom's auction, which is due to start later this year, will give access to the fourth generation, or 4G, network, to at least 98% of people across the UK, enabling users to download data - such as music and high-definition films - at much faster speeds.
The auction will offer the equivalent of three-quarters of the mobile spectrum in use - some 80% more than released in the 3G auction which took place in 2000.
Everything, which is the UK's largest operator with around 27 million customers, will be allowed to offer 4G services from September 11, although Ofcom said the timing will be a commercial decision for the company itself.
Everything said: "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 company declined to confirm reports that it will replace the Orange and T-Mobile brands from next March.