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UK networks begin online bidding war for 4G spectrum

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The bidding war for 4G airwaves in the UK has begun, with UK networks and other companies bidding for the ability to launch a 4G network alongside products and services.

Ofcom’s auction of the 4G spectrum will signal the launch of competing 4G networks towards the end of the year, as well as readying the necessary equipment for the next generation of mobile networks that will come after 4G.

The networks and companies bidding in the auction has already been revealed, with the likely suspects O2, Vodafone, Orange, Three and T-Mobile all in the running alongside a few networks from other countries and Niche Spectrum Ventures Limited, a subsidiary of BT.

Strangely, bidding will be done online using a special piece of software that’s been designed specifically for the auction. It’s kind of like eBay, but with millions of pounds being used and very little physical product in return, just the rights to launch your own 4G network.

Ofcom says it has designed the auction so that there will definitely be at least four main operators broadcasting 4G signals here in the UK. The idea behind this is to generate competition and therefore lower prices, which will benefit the consumer.

Companies will be bidding on 28 segments of spectrum that are split into two separate bands – 800MHz and 2.6GHz. The 800MHz spectrum was freed up by the end of analogue TV, but it’s the 2.6GHz frequency that networks will really be after, as it’s necessary to deliver blisteringly fast mobile broadband speeds.

The auction will be taking place over the next couple of weeks, with the winning bidders required to sort out fees and the legal stuff after. We should be seeing EE joined by the next wave of 4G networks by summer of this year.