The regulator has set the long-awaited ball rolling for faster mobile broadband
Ofcom today unveiled plans for a long delayed auction of the 4G spectrum in the UK.
The regulator said that the sale will be underway by the end of the year but auctions will not begin until next year and it expects consumers will be able to access the services by the end of 2013.
The sale of the 4G spectrum is 80 per cent bigger than the previous 3G auctions and the aim is to deliver faster mobile broadband services to at least 98 per cent of the UK.
In order to promote competition that will ensure consumers can receive these services at lower prices, Ofcom will not allow the three largest UK mobile operators to bid for the entire spectrum.
Smaller operators such as Hutchison 3G or a new entrant altogether will be able to bid for a minimum amount of the spectrum that has been reserved to ensure that there is a minimum of four operators in the 4G market.
Ed Richards, Ofcom chief executive, said: "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."
Ofcom said the 4G auction will offer a combination of high and low frequency spectrum bands in lots. The 800 MHz will be for widespread mobile coverage and the winner of the auction will be required to provide an indoor mobile broadband service to at least 98 per cent of the UK by 2017.
Ofcom said: "Given that it is easier to provide coverage outdoors than indoors, a network meeting this obligation is likely to cover more than 99% of the UK by population when outdoors.
The higher frequency 2.6 GHz band will deliver the capacity needed to deliver faster speeds.
Dominic Baliszewski, telecoms expert at price comparison site Broadbandchoices welcomed the news but said the continued delay on rolling out 4G put the UK at a disadvantage.
He said: "4G will provide a digital lifeline to rural communities who are currently languishing on broadband connections that are not fit for purpose, but there is still a long wait ahead.
"It's a shame that this is yet another delay for a service which has been available in the US since last year."
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