Ofcom sets date for 4G spectrum auction


The much debated 4G network auction will take place by the end of 2012, telecoms regulator Ofcom has confirmed.

In a statement on the organisation's website, Ofcom said it expects the first 4G networks to be deployed by the middle of 2013, following the completion of a statutory consultation and bidding war.

The company also confirmed that spectrum space has been reserved for a fourth mobile operator to prevent the auction being dominated by Everything Everywhere, O2 and Vodafone.

This fourth operator could be Hutchinson 3G (Three) or another, unnamed market player, stated Ofcom.

Spectrum space has been reserved for a fourth operator to stop the auction being dominated by the 'big three'.

The prospect of the 4G auction has been a source of much in-fighting among the operator community in recent months, with Everything Everywhere blaming its rivals for delaying proceedings.

The aim of the auction is to provide mobile broadband to 98 per cent of the UK population, as well as faster mobile data speeds to phones and wireless devices.

Two spectrum bands will be auctioned off.

The 800 MHz lower frequency band will be used to bolster existing mobile coverage across the UK, while the higher 2.6 GHz band will provide high speed capacity.

"This combination of low and high frequency spectrum creates the potential for 4G mobile broadband services to be widely available across the UK, while offering capacity to cope with significant demand in urban areas," said the Ofcom statement.

Ed Richards, chief executive of Ofcom, said the auction had been designed with the needs of UK consumers in mind.

"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," added Richards.

Vodafone welcomed Ofcom's decision, noting that a competitive mobile internet market will bring substantial benefits to British consumers, businesses and the economy.

"Ofcom appears to have created a mechanism to deliver the spectrum needed to run competitive 4G services and we welcome the work it has done," a spokesperson told IT Pro.

"We also support the regulator's desire to see 4G services delivered to as many people as possible. However, we will obviously need to study today's lengthy documents to make sure they deliver the fair and open auction that this country needs."

Caroline Donnelly is the news and analysis editor of IT Pro and its sister site Cloud Pro, and covers general news, as well as the storage, security, public sector, cloud and Microsoft beats. Caroline has been a member of the IT Pro/Cloud Pro team since March 2012, and has previously worked as a reporter at several B2B publications, including UK channel magazine CRN, and as features writer for local weekly newspaper, The Slough and Windsor Observer. She studied Medical Biochemistry at the University of Leicester and completed a Postgraduate Diploma in Magazine Journalism at PMA Training in 2006.