Ofcom draws up 4G auction guidelines

The regulator has finally managed to come up with some rules for the auction process of the next-generation mobile broadband radio frequency.

by Michael Northcott
Last Updated: 19 Aug 2013

The auction of the new bandwidth is now scheduled for the end of 2012, and includes safeguards to ensure that 3, the smallest mobile phone network in the UK, is able to get a piece of the action. The slow march to getting an auction set up has taken years because of legal wrangles between the mobile phone operators about how such an auction should be arranged and the requirements under which they would be allowed to purchase a part of the airwaves.

If you’ve been wondering why your smartphone’s internet connection is often so slow, it is because of exactly this. The 4G network has actually already been rolled out to many places across America and within the EU, but (as feels usual) the UK is a few steps behind. If it goes ahead without any further legal obstructions, the superfast 4G mobile broadband service could be available to end users by the end of next year. MT’s hacks will be able to file copy from the train at lightning speed – even if the trains are delayed…

Ofcom said today that the auction will be the largest piece of airwave spectrum ever auctioned in one go in the UK, as the new range will be equivalent to around 75% of that already in use. Back in 2000, the older 3G spectrum was auctioned for around £22bn – mobile operators thought there was going to be an explosion in mobile video calling – but this time it’ll be around £2bn. The operators aren’t going to stand for any further rip-offs. The new network will mean mobile coverage for around 98% of the UK’s population, which is more than currently available on the much more established landline network. 

Importantly for those who love doing work on mobile devices, one of the lots of the spectrum will carry an obligation to provide 4G coverage to 98% of the UK population, indoors, by the end of 2017. That’s the latest date at which they could do it. With a commitment like this (and on connections as fast as wired broadband in your home), we could see the internet totally dominated by wireless before the decade is out. The Second Space Age is here, folks! 

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