UK Delays 4G License Auction Again
The UK's telecoms regulator has again delayed the planned 4G license auction until 2013. Originally expected earlier this year it was delayed until late 2012, and now wont take place until sometime early in 2013.
Confusingly, a statement from Ofom opens by confirming the auction will take place at the end of 2012, then the statement finishes admitting that the auction will take place in 2013.
The 4G auction will offer at least two spectrum bands - 800 MHz and 2.6 GHz. The lower frequency 800 MHz band is part of the 'digital dividend', which is ideal for widespread mobile coverage. The higher frequency 2.6 GHz band is ideal for delivering the capacity needed to deliver faster speeds.
These two bands add up to 250 MHz of additional mobile spectrum, compared to 333 MHz in use today.
The regulator is also changing some of the conditions to ensure at least four licenses are awarded with sufficient spectrum set aside for either the current smallest network, Hutchison 3G UK, or a new entrant to bid for.
The spectrum bands will be auctioned to bidders as a series of lots. One of the 800 MHz lots of spectrum will carry an obligation to provide a mobile broadband service for indoor reception to at least 98% of the UK population by the end of 2017 at the latest. Ofcom anticipates that imposing the obligation on one operator will drive other operators to extend their own coverage in response.
Another consultation has been launched on the planned auction details, and that will close on 11 September 2012.
Ofcom expects the auction process to start before the end of this year, with prospective bidders required formally to apply to take part. Those applications will then be assessed by Ofcom before the bidding phase starts, likely to be in early 2013.
Mobile operators are expected to start rolling out LTE based networks using the auctioned spectrum from the middle of 2013, and to start offering 4G services to consumers later that year.
On the web: Ofcom 4G Statement