Ofcom wants the second 4G spectrum auction to take place at the start of next year at the latest.
Bids for slices of the 2.3GHz and 3.4GHz radio frequency bands could give UK mobile networks and wireless ISPs a shot in the arm, potentially boosting speeds and availability of services.
Mobile networks who lost out on getting any licences for the high frequency 2.6GHz band in the last auction are likely to bid for the 2.3GHz slots, while UK Broadband, which owns wireless ISP Relish, could be up for buying some of the 3.4GHz band.
It already owns a 40MHz slice of this which is uses to deliver its ‘fibre-like’ wireless services to parts of central London – although coverage is patchy. Despite their own coverage checker putting Recombu Towers squarely within their footprint, we were told that we couldn’t get a service to try out.
Another interested party could be Dutch start-up Angie, which has grandly announced plans to deliver ‘5G’ wireless broadband – despite that not actually being a thing yet – to over 90 per cent of UK premises. Whether the newcomers make good on their claims remains to be seen.
Though Ofcom admits that it’s up to bodies like the CAM (Competition and Markets Authority) to approve such mergers, it says that it has a duty to ‘secure the optimum use of spectrum’.
When there were five networks bidding in the last 4G auction, £2.34 billion was raised by Ofcom and even that was shy of the £3.5 billion chancellor George Osborne was expecting.
With just three networks at the table (plus a possible two other wireless ISPs) fighting over smaller slices of the airwaves, Ofcom can’t expect that this second round of bidding will generate anywhere near as much money.