By Michael Northcott Thursday, 20 December 2012

4G mobile broadband spectrum auction bidders announced

The UK's telecoms regulator has revealed the seven companies that have qualified to bid for the new bandwidth that will make 4G more widely available to the public.

For the uninitiated, 4G is an expansion of the radio spectrum used by mobile phones, so that their internet, email, video calls and other data can run super smooth and super fast.

So Ofcom’s announcing the qualified bidders is a huge step forward: it promises to eradicate those embarrassing moments when you’re trying to show someone a YouTube video on your phone and it simply freezes. 

‘Buffering…buffering…buffering…’ should be a thing of the past, once Everything Everywhere (EE), Hong Kong’s PCCW, Hutchison Whampoa (owns Three), MLL Telecom, BT, and Telefonica (O2) have got their hands on some of the new bandwidth.

The formal auction process is due to start next month, and it is thought that licences will be doled out in March time, and 4G services should launch in May or June. So there’s still a fair old wait for the more avid smartphone enthusiasts to endure.

Importantly, the auction is expected to raise £3.5bn for the government’s kitty, which although a large sum, is much smaller than the £22bn that was raised by the 3G spectrum back in 2000.

If you’re interested in the techie stuff behind it, the new bandwidth is being achieved by using the 800MHz radio spectrum that has been vacated by the switchover from analogue to digital in the nation’s televisions. 

Also, the radio frequencies being used for 4G are lower than those used for 3G (800MHz as opposed to 2100MHz), and this means the 4G signal will propagate more evenly than 3G does. Hopefully that'll mean much broader coverage and fewer patches of no signal.

4G will boost the amount of space in the airwaves available to mobile phones by around 75%, and should help meet the demand for all that video and data as more people get smartphones, and some start using video calling. 

Ofcom’s chief executive, Ed Richards, said: ‘The 4G auction will be a competitive process that will dictate the shape of the UK mobile phone market for the next decade and beyond.

‘New 4G services will stimulate investment, growth and innovation in the UK and deliver significant benefits to consumers in terms of better, faster and more reliable mobile broadband connection.’

Buffering…buffering…buffering…playing at last.

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