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UK 4G Signal Auction will take place Early 2013

Those of us waiting for US-style 4G mobile phone connectivity will have to wait a little while longer as today Ofcom has announced that the auction for the 4G spectrum will take place next year, which will put the likelihood of getting 4G capabilities in the UK in the next year very small.

UK networks will have to bid for chunks of radio spectrum to support future 4G mobile services with the highest bidder inevitably taking home the bacon.

It had been previously hoped that we would see the action by the end of 2012 but Ofcom have now stated that the auction will take place early 2013, with hopes that the UK will see the 4G service rollout by the end of 2013.

4G stands for the fourth generation bandwidth for mobile phone services, which is a high speed technology that will see services such as downloads and streaming hit super-fast speeds across the mobile networks.

The auction will offer the equivalent of three-quarters of the mobile spectrum currently in use – some 80% more than released in the 3G auction which took place in 2000, and saw the launch of the 3G services across the UK. Ofcom have also stated that they will be reaching 95 percent coverage indoors across the UK.

As well as the following requirements for coverage:

  • The spectrum will be released in “lots” and one of the 800 MHz “lots” will carry an obligation to provide a mobile broadband service for indoor reception to at least 98% of the UK population by the end of 2017 at the latest.
  • There will be a requirement to ensure 95 percent coverage indoors as well among each UK nation — England, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales.
  • Another consultation is being set for September 11 for the “legal instrument” for implementing the auction.
  • The full whack of Ofcom documents on the 4G spectrum sale — including details on specific spectrum tranches and regional rollouts —

In the interest of fairness Ofcom has also stated: “In the interests of competition, Ofcom has decided to reserve a minimum amount of spectrum in the auction for a fourth operator. This could be either Hutchinson 3G or a new entrant altogether,”

This means that the big networks like Everything Everywhere (the merged operator of Orange and T-Mobile), Vodafone and O2 will not be able to push out the smaller companies.

You can read the full report from Ofcom here.

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