Auctions of radio frequencies for 4G mobile will take place before the end of 2012 despite the best efforts of Britain’s mobile phone operators, communications minister Ed Vaizey has promised.
UK media regulator Ofcom will auction off the frequencies for high speed mobile broadband at the end of this year, although they won’t be available until the end of 2013.
The auction was due to happen earlier this year, but several mobile phone operators have argued it would be unfair to them or should exclude other operators.
Ed Vaizey MP, the minister for culture, communications and the creative industries, told the Intellect Future of Entertainment Conference that 4G will be very important for rural areas.
“The 4G spectrum auction is still on track for the end of this year, although we’re not going to clear the spectrum until the end of 2013,” he said.
“Ofcom has had to go through an exhaustive process because every single mobile phone company has threatened to sue Ofcom if they don't get it right.
“If you want to know why there's been a delay, don't blame Ofcom, stop your nearest mobile phone operator and ask them why there's been a delay.”
Some of the frequencies to be sold off for 4G are currently used by Freeview, and can’t be used until Freeview has been moved to new frequencies next year.
Everything Everywhere, which owns T-Mobile and Orange, has been fighting its own battle against its rivals to launch 4G this year using the same frequencies it uses for 2G and 3G mobile.
A spokesperson said: “Everything Everywhere has no appetite for delaying the spectrum auction, nor any appetite for litigation against Ofcom. We haven’t threatened Ofcom with litigation at any stage in this auction process.
“We strongly believe that we need 4G in Britain as soon as possible, as the UK is already behind 38 other countries with a commercial LTE roll out.
“Everything Everywhere is investing and innovating to bring 4G to the UK as soon as possible, and has requested permission from Ofcom to launch 4G on a small scale this year, using its existing 1800MHz spectrum.”