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Ofcom: 4G spectrum auction to take place in 2012

Brits won't be offered service until 2013

Ofcom has revealed the auction for the mobile spectrums that will ensure networks can offer 4G or Long Term Evolution (LTE) services will take place at the beginning of 2012.

The 800MHz and 2.6GHz radio spectrums will be available in the auction. The 800MHz band is current used for terrestrial TV broadcasts, but the digital switchover means it can now be assigned for mobile broadband use. It's thought speeds of 'up to' 100Mbps will be achieved over LTE services.

It is hoped the spectrums will ensure mobile broadband is expanded to cover 95 percent of the country. Despite the auction taking place next year, operators are unlikely to offer the services to Brits until the end of 2012.

"The auction is not only critical to the future of the UK mobile telecommunications market but it is also of significant importance to the wider economy," said Ofcom chief executive Ed Richards.

"It will support a wide range of data services that are fast becoming essential features of the modern world."

The regulator is currently hosting a consultation of how the auctions should take place.

"Our role as the independent regulator is to award this spectrum in a way that secures the best use of the spectrum for the benefit of citizens and consumers in the UK," added Richards.

"We expect mobile operators to start rolling-out 4G networks from the start of 2013, and to start offering 4G services to consumers perhaps later that year. We would expect 4G services to be widely available across the UK a few years thereafter."

Ofcom said it hoped four networks would be able to purchase parts of the spectrum.

Stephen Rayment, CTO at networking specialist BelAir Networks, said Ofcom's plans to auction the new spectrum are "great news" but this will not be the answer to addressing the problems of data capacity faced by mobile operators.

"The vast surges in data consumption are wreaking havoc across 3G networks, particularly in areas of high user concentration. In fact, mobile data traffic is already on track to exceed the capacity that will be available in forthcoming LTE and 4G network," he said.

Kevin Russell, chief executive officer of mobile network 3 said the annoucement was "a clear and strong commitment from Ofcom and the UK Government that will stimulate investment in mobile broadband and protect UK consumers".

"The January 2011 re-allocation of 2G spectrum has given a huge competitive advantage to Vodafone, O2 and Everything Everywhere. Ofcom's proposals seek to rebalance this in the medium term but there are still immediate distortions that need to be addressed. These include significant coverage, capacity and financial benefits."

See also: 4G auction to happen within a year?


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