Ofcom has announced that the 4G auction will finally begin this year. After months and months of wrangling (not to mention arguing) the regulator wants to see four networks starting the process in 2012, with actual commercial rollout of 4G not expected to start until 2013.
Sticking to its guns, Ofcom says that the three biggest networks, O2, Vodafone and Everything Everywhere (Orange and T-Mobile) would need to make way for a fourth competitor (expected to be Three). Three hasn’t yet been confirmed as an official bidder but it’s very much expected that it will be.
As well as getting the ball rolling this year, it’s expected that networks will need to provide 98 per cent coverage to the UK by the end of 2017.
The 4G auction will offer up at least two spectrum bands, 800 MHz and 2.6 GHz. The lower frequency 800 MHz band is ideal for widespread mobile coverage and the higher frequency 2.6 GHz band is ideal for delivering the capacity needed to deliver faster speeds.
The 800MHz band is contentious as it’s predicted to interfere with the Freeview broadcast frequency.
Alongside today’s announcement comes a list of rules for spectrum bidders, which can be challenged before the 11th of September. Ofcom expects the auction process to start after then, with the actual bidding phase ‘likely to be in early 2013.’
We’ll be taking a closer look at those rules shortly so stay tuned for updates.
Image credit: Flickr user takomabibelot