The GSMA, an industry association for mobile operators, voiced disquiet about Ofcom’s proposal to increase annual licence fees for 900MHz and 1800MHz spectrum in the UK.

“The GSMA is concerned that Ofcom’s proposal to more than quadruple annual licence fees – from £24.8 million to £138.5 million for the 900MHz band, and from £39.7 million to £170.4 million for the 1800MHz – will  jeopardise mobile operators’ ability to upgrade their networks for 4G services in the UK,” said Tom Phillips, GSMA’s chief regulatory officer, in a statement.

The UK regulator laid out its licence fee proposals in October, arguing they better reflect full market value after taking into account the money UK operators were prepared to spend on 4G spectrum.

Under Ofcom’s plans, annual licence fees paid by Vodafone and O2 would jump from £16.6 million to £83.1 million. EE’s would rise from £24.9 million to £107.1 million, while H3G would see its annual fee payments go up from £8.3 million to £35.7 million.

The GSMA pointed to a recent report showing Europe lagging significantly behind the US in terms of deployment of next-generation wireless infrastructure.

4G represented 19 per cent of US connections compared to less than two per cent in the EU at the end of 2013.

The GSMA said improvement in 4G deployment can only be realised with long-term industry investment.

“Any lag in 4G roll-out could potentially put UK businesses at an international disadvantage and deny consumers access to the latest mobile services,” added Phillips.

At the time of Ofcom’s proposals in October the consultation period was due to run until 19 December 2013.

Ofcom added that the new fees were likely to come into effect this year.