Voadfone, EE, Telefónica and Three among the bidders for faster mobile broadband spectrum
The UK's 4G auction is now underway, with seven companies bidding for the new airwaves suitable for superfast mobile broadband services.
The auction itself is expected to take several weeks as the companies, which include Everything Everywhere, Vodafone and Hutchinson 3G UK, will bid for a combination of lots over several rounds.
With legal bickering blamed for delaying the roll-out of the 4G spectrum in the UK, Ofcom said its ‘combinatorial clock' style auction is designed to "achieve the most efficient outcome".
Based on supply and demand the auction, the regulator said the process puts the spectrum in the hands of the bidders who value it most highly, while also ensuring they pay a competitive price.
Ed Richards, Ofcom Chief Executive, said: "Today's 4G auction is a very significant milestone for the UK's communications sector.
"It will release the essential raw material for the next wave of mobile digital services. This will change the way we consume digital media in both our personal and working lives and deliver significant benefits to millions of consumers and businesses across the country."
Bidders will be competing for 28 lots of spectrum in two separate bands – 800MHz and 2.6GHz. The lower frequency 800MHz band is part of the ‘digital dividend' that was freed up when analogue terrestrial TV was switched off, which is ideal for widespread mobile coverage.
The roll-out of 4G is hoped to go some way to bridging the digital divide. The higher frequency 2.6GHz band is ideal for delivering the capacity needed for faster speeds.
These two bands add up to 250MHz of additional mobile spectrum, compared to 333MHz in use today. Both bands are being packaged into smaller lots of spectrum for the auction.
The regulator said the bids are being made over a secure connections developed specifically for the auction. It also said that no updates will be given on bidding activity to ensure confidentiality and to reduce risk of strategic bidding.
Once the winners have been announced and paid their fees, Ofcom will grant them the licences. It said this should enable operators "to start rolling out new networks. It is expected that services will be launched by a range of providers from late spring-summer 2013."
The following organisations are bidding in the auction:
• Everything Everywhere Limited
• HKT (UK) Company Limited (a subsidiary of PCCW Limited)
• Hutchison 3G UK Limited
• MLL Telecom Ltd
• Niche Spectrum Ventures Limited (a subsidiary of BT Group plc)
• Telefónica UK Limited
• Vodafone Limited
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