Ofcom has made an official announcement as to when the auction of 4G spectrum will begin in the UK.
The long delayed auction – which has been much griped about as holding the UK back, preventing access to next-gen mobile broadband – will take place early on next year (though the actual process of applications will begin at the end of 2012).
The bidding should be done by the spring of 2013, leaving the successful network operators able to deploy 4G before the end of 2013. Pretty much the target date we’ve been expecting for a while now, but a long way behind the US and some of the more forward thinking European nations.
Back in the day, the 3G auction raised a massive pile of cash, but 4G isn’t expected to hit quite those heights. It’ll still be a big money affair, naturally, and indeed in terms of spectrum size, the 4G auction is flogging off the equivalent of three-quarters of the spectrum in use today (80 per cent more than the 3G auction offered).
Who’s going to get what? The major three players – Everything Everywhere, Vodafone and O2 – will snap up a good deal of it, although Ofcom is reserving a block of spectrum for a fourth operator in the interests of a competitive 4G market.
That fourth network will most likely, but not necessarily, be Three – there are alternatives, and rumour has it that BT and TalkTalk might be interested in muscling in, but they might struggle to do so.
Ofcom’s aim is to ensure mobile broadband coverage reaches 98 per cent of the UK, which with 4G speeds could be a massive boon to those in the sticks who still have lamentable fixed line broadband performance.
Ed Richards, Ofcom CEO, commented: “The 4G auction has been designed to deliver the maximum possible benefit to consumers and citizens across the UK. As a direct result of the measures Ofcom is introducing, consumers will be able to surf the web, stream videos and download email attachments on their mobile device from almost every home in the UK.”
Meanwhile, Everything Everywhere will keep badgering Ofcom over its desire to fire up its own 4G network via its existing 1800MHz spectrum. It’s still awaiting a response from Ofcom, but other networks, none of which have any 4G spectrum as yet, argue that the move would give their rival an unfair, anti-competitive advantage in the market.