Ofcom Invites Applications As UK 4G Auction Begins

Steve McCaskill is editor of TechWeekEurope and ChannelBiz. He joined as a reporter in 2011 and covers all areas of IT, with a particular interest in telecommunications, mobile and networking, along with sports technology.

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The UK 4G auction is finally underway as Ofcom starts the largest ever sale of mobile spectrum in Britain

The long-awaited UK 4G auction is underway after Ofcom began welcoming applications to participate in the largest ever sale of spectrum in the country. Up to 250MHz of additional spectrum in the 800MHz and 2.6GHz bands is up for grabs, compared to the 333MHz already in use.

Interested parties have until 4pm to submit their application, along with an initial deposit of £100,000. Ofcom will then review the submissions to ensure that applicants are qualified to take part.

These checks will ascertain whether the information submitted is correct and that there is no overlap between applications that could distort the auction.

UK 4G auction plans

4G © De Mango Shutterstock 2012“We have fired the starting gun on the 4G auction process. In the past year alone, mobile internet usage has doubled,” said Ed Richards, Ofcom Chief Executive. “The 4G auction will release crucial capacity to support future growth, helping to boost UK productivity, innovation and drive significant improvements to mobile broadband availability across the UK.”

The names of successful applicants will be revealed before the end of 2012 or early next year, with bidding starting in January. This will take place over a number of weeks via secure internet connections and specially-developed software. The government has confirmed that all money raised in the auction will be used to reduce the UK’s deficit.

Bidders will be informed how much they have won and how much they will have to pay in February or March, with licenses granted during that period. Ofcom says that it expects LTE services to go live in either May or June, although Three has said that it has no plans to introduce its own offering until September 2013.

EE currently offers the only commercial 4G service in the UK, having received permission from Ofcom to use its existing spectrum for LTE. Peace talks between rival operators and EE, brokered by Ofcom averted the threat of subsequent legal action and brought the timetable of the perpetually-delayed auction forward by five months.

Last week at the Westminster eForum, Vodafone, O2 and Three all stressed the benefits that 4G will bring to the UK, but stressed the need for a competitive environment.

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