Ofcom launches UK 4G auction

An auction to determine how the UK’s fourth generation (4G) spectrum is shared has begun, with seven operators involved. Ofcom has described the auction as a “very significant milestone” for the UK. The bidding process will take place online and last a number of weeks.

4G offers much faster download speeds than 3G connections, making it possible to stream high quality audio and visual content while on the move. Experts have speculated that 4G will significantly boost the economy.

Ofcom has been criticised about how long the process has taken, with the UK lagging behind other countries that have already rolled out 4G. The auction is long-awaited after a number of setbacks resulted in the date being continually pushed back. It was originally scheduled to begin in late 2012.

It is taking place in order to determine how the newly-available spectrums will shared out – with operators hoping to be get large parts in order to offer greater capacity, and therefore gain more potential customers.

“It will release the essential raw material for the next wave of mobile digital services,” said Ofcom chief executive Ed Richards. “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.”

The bidding process for the extra spectrum will be conducted in secret.

As well as EE, the other companies taking part in the auction are:

  • Vodafone –  a Platinum Partner of Comm-Tech Voice & Data
  • Telefonica (the Spanish telecoms company that owns the O2 network)
  • PCCW (a major Hong Kong telecoms conglomerate) operating through its subsidiary HKT
  • Hutchinson Whampoa (another Hong Kong conglomerate and operator of the ‘3’ network)
  • MLL Telecom (a Buckinghamshire-based network supplier)
  • BT (via its subsidiary Niche Spectrum Ventures)

The winners of the 4G auction will be expected to launch their services by summer this year.