Ofcom has announced plans to auction radio spectrum that’ll be used for 4G LTE and WiMAX mobile phone services in the UK. It’ll be auctioning two spectrum bands; the old analogue TV bandwidth at 800 MHz, along with a higher-frequency band at 2.6 GHz. Together, these bands are equivalent to three-quarters of the mobile spectrum in use today - and are 80% more than the 3G auction that took place in 2000.
Fourth generation ‘4G’ services are expected to provide additional network capacity and faster mobile broadband speeds.
The auction includes a number of measures that are designed to widen mobile broadband coverage. It plans to set limits on the minimum and maximum amounts of spectrum that bidders can win, with these minimum limits also designed to ensure at least four national wholesalers are awarded 4G frequencies. In addition, one of the 800 MHz licences will include an obligation to deliver 95% UK population coverage by the end of 2017.
Ed Richards, Ofcom Chief Executive, said “The auction is not only critical to the future of the UK mobile telecommunications market but it is also of significant importance to the wider economy. It will support a wide range of data services that are fast becoming essential features of the modern world. 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.”
Ofcom hopes to start the auction in the first quarter of 2012. It’s launched a consultation on its plans and is asking for responses by 31st May 2011.