Ofcom has just announced its plans for the largest ever single auction of additional mobile spectrum in the UK.
The chunks being flogged off are equivalent to 75% of the mobile spectrum which is currently in use, and nearly twice as much as the big 3G auction which took place in 2000.
Two spectrum bands will be covered by the 4G auction, which is due to happen in a year’s time.
There’s the 800MHz band, which is being freed up by the digital switchover, and the 2.6GHz band which is ideal for delivering higher speeds.
All this extra real estate is certainly needed for the rapidly increasing amount of smartphones and tablets in the UK which make use of mobile broadband. 4G will give mobile users speeds more akin to the connection they can get on a fixed line at home.
Ofcom is taking pains to ensure that the spectrum is auctioned off fairly, without the big networks blocking out the smaller guys such as 3. The auction will include safeguards to that effect, and coverage conditions to make sure that mobile broadband covers the majority (95%) of the UK population, reaching out to current not-spots.
Ofcom Chief Executive, Ed Richards, commented: “Our role as the independent regulator is to award this spectrum in a way that secures the best use of the spectrum for the benefit of citizens and consumers in the UK.”
“That is why we are proposing to design the auction in a way that not only encourages investment but also promotes competition and delivers wide coverage of services.”
4G networks should start to go live in the UK come 2013, although it probably won’t be until later in the year that they’ll actually be available to consumers.