New 4G networks to go live as early as May 2013
Next May the UK can expect to see new 4G services going live following the spectrum auction due to take place this December, said Ofcom today. Ofcom has published the final regulations and a timetable for the 4G mobile spectrum auction, which is to be the largest ever sale of mobile airwaves in the UK. This new spectrum will be used to deliver superfast 4G mobile services to people in cities, towns and villages across the UK and will almost double the amount of airwaves currently available to smartphones and tablets that use 3G networks. Ofcom has confirmed the reserve prices for the spectrum that is being auctioned. The combined total is £1.3 billion. The regulator has also announced 11 December as the provisional date for the submission of applications by prospective bidders. Ofcom will confirm the date in two weeks time, once the regulations have come into force.
The rules set out in detail the process involved in the auction, from applying to take part, through to bidding and finally issuing the licences to use the spectrum. Ed Richards, Ofcom Chief Executive, said: 'Today marks an important shift from preparation to the delivery of the auction, which will see widespread 4G mobile services from a range of providers. The entire industry is now focused on the auction itself, with a shared goal of delivering new and improved mobile services for consumers.' After the 11 December application day, where prospective bidders submit their applications to Ofcom together with an initial deposit, December will become the qualification stage where applications are reviewed to determine who can go on to bid in the auction. In January, bidding begins. This could take a number of weeks, Ofcom stated. Bids will be placed online over secure internet connections, using software that has been developed specifically for the auction. Over February and March bidders will be informed what they have won and its cost, then licence fees will be paid and licences granted. In May and June end users can expect new 4G services to go live from a range of providers. Ofcom stated that for the typical user, download speeds of initial 4G networks could be around five to seven times those for existing 3G networks. This means a music album taking 20 minutes to download on a 3G phone and just over three minutes on 4G. This is based on existing 3G speeds being 1 Mbps on average and 4G speed being 6 Mbps.