UK to get 4G broadband services nationwide by first half of 2013

3 Oct 2012

The UK’s telecoms regulator Ofcom has confirmed that the 4G auction process is on track to begin at the end of the year to enable competitive 4G services across the UK by the first half of 2013.

Ofcom plans to start the auction process at the end of the year with bidding starting in early 2013.

The objective is to make sure that 4G spectrum – at 800Mhz and 2.6GHz – is available as soon as possible.

Following discussions with TV broadcasters, Digital UK and transmission company Arqiva, Ofcom has secured the earlier release of frequencies that were previously used for digital terrestrial broadcasting.

It says the spectrum will now be cleared and ready for 4G mobile services across much of the UK five months earlier than previously planned, from spring 2013, due to the UK’s digital switchover, which has also been running ahead of schedule.

For example, following intensive technical planning work, the clearance date for TV transmitters in Oxford and Waltham – which would otherwise prevent deployment of 4G mobile services to around 9m people in cities including London, Birmingham, Coventry, Leicester, Nottingham and Sheffield – will be brought forward by five months to May 2013.

Similarly, the clearance date for transmitters which impact around 1m people in and around Glasgow and Edinburgh will be brought forward by more than three months to April 2013.

Ed Richards, Ofcom chief executive, said: “The actions we have taken with industry and government avoids the risk of significant delay and is tremendous news for consumers who might otherwise have waited a considerable period for the next generation of mobile broadband services.

“Ofcom’s objective has always been to release the spectrum as early as possible and we remain focused on starting the auction by the end of the year.”

4G in the Republic of Ireland – when?

In the neighbouring Republic of Ireland, the telecoms industry is still awaiting news on the start of the auction process for 4G. The Commission for Communications Regulation (ComReg) said the auction process was due to begin in July, but this has been held up by delays and consultations and it remains to be seen if the auctions will begin before Christmas.

Digital switchover and the freeing up of terrestrial signal is set to begin on 24 October with the switching off of the old analogue TV signal.

However, the launch date for the first 4G services and their geographic distribution across Ireland is far from clear.

4G image via Shutterstock

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