4G speeds and coverage in the UK could be boosted following a further spectrum auction.
Telecoms regulator Ofcom has announced details of the auction, which would see networks and ISPs bidding for slices of the 2.3GHz and 3.4GHz radio frequency bands.
Ofcom says that the bands could be used to provide ‘very high data capacity’ and expects that the UK’s leading mobile networks will want a slice of this second 4G pie. London-based ISP Relish, which already uses part of the 3.4GHz band, could also use the auction to strengthen its coverage.
Philip Marnick, Ofcom’s spectrum group director, said: “Today marks an important step in ensuring that the UK has sufficient spectrum to support our wireless economy.
“It comes in response to the fast pace of change and innovation taking place in the communications sector, which is placing increased demands on how spectrum is used by all industries. One important way of meeting this demand is making new spectrum available and its use as flexible as possible.”
The auction is expected to take place in late 2015 or early 2016. Ofcom has launched a consultation which will invite comment and insight from the industry and ultimately shape the nature of the auction.
A total of 190 MHz of spectrum in the two bands – equivalent to around three-quarters of the airwaves released by Ofcom through the 4G auction in 2013 – will be sold off. Ofcom proposes to auction off 5MHz slices in 38 lots with bidders requesting a minimum of four lots per band.
To promote competition, Ofcom is proposing a limit on the amount of spectrum one bidders can throw down for, to stop one or two networks from outbidding everyone else.
Since the 4G auction in 2013, EE’s 4G services are now available to over 75 per cent of the UK population. By the end of the year EE aims to bring 4G services to 90 per cent of the population.
Vodafone, O2 and Three are aiming to make 4G services available to 98 per cent by the end of 2015. Recently, Vodafone and EE have launched faster LTE-A (LTE-Advanced) services which dramatically increases the download speeds possible on 4G devices.
Relish, a subsidiary of UK Broadband, launched fixed-location 4G services this year, allowing customers in London to connect a ‘fibre-like’ service that offers speeds ranging from 5-100Mbps. A key advantage of Relish’s service is that it’s
Ofcom’s consultation is due to close on January 23, 2015.