Ofcom reveals 4G spectrum auction rules – total reserve price stg£1.3bn

12 Nov 2012

The UK’s telecoms regulator Ofcom has published the final rules and a timetable for the 4G mobile spectrum auction, the largest sale of wireless airwaves in the UK. It has confirmed the reserve price for the spectrum auction comes in at a combined total of stg£1.3bn.

The regulator has set 11 December as the provisional date for the submission of applications by bidders.

Ofcom said the application will be reviewed throughout December and bidding will begin in January.

In February/March, bidders will be informed what they have won and its cost and by March licences will be granted after the fees are paid.

Ofcom expects new 4G services to go live in May or June.

“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 of 1Mbps on average and 4G speed being 6Mbps (on average between five and seven times faster),” Ofcom said.

Ofcom today launched a new 4G consumer page with information on the auction and the potential benefits of 4G technology.

“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,” Ofcom chief executive Ed Richards said.

“The entire industry is now focused on the auction itself, with a shared goal of delivering new and improved mobile services for consumers,” Richards added.

Last month EE, a tie-up between Orange and T-Mobile in the UK, made its service available for potentially 11m homes in 10 cities with data speeds of up to 76Mbps available.

Chronology for UK’s 4G auction process

11 December: The application day

Prospective bidders submit their applications to Ofcom together with an initial deposit.

December: Qualification stage

Applications are reviewed to determine who can go on to bid in the auction.

January: The principal stage

Bidding begins. This could take a number of weeks. Bids will be placed online over secure internet connections, using software that has been developed specifically for the auction.

February/March: The assignment stage

Bidders informed what they have won and its cost.

February/March: The grant stage

Licence fees are paid and licences granted.

May/June: New 4G services launched

New 4G services expected to go live from a range of providers.

4G spectrum image via Shutterstock

John Kennedy is a journalist who served as editor of Silicon Republic for 17 years