Mobile devices

Ofcom has named the seven bidders who will take part in the upcoming 4G mobile broadband bandwidth auction.

Everything Everywhere, BT, Vodafone, O2, Three, PCCW and MLL Telecom will take part in the auction next month, January 2013. The new 4G bandwidth makes use of the 800MHz radio spectrum freed up by the switch from analogue to digital television. It offers an additional higher-frequency 2.6GHz band, that is better equipped to transfer large amounts of data to portable devices such as smartphones and tablets. 4G licences will be granted in March 2013, and services will launch thereafter. More 4G capacity will be auctioned in the coming years.

The auction is expected to raise somewhere in the region of £3.5bn. In making the announcement about the bidders, Ofcom said the 4G bandwidth auction would increase the amount of airwave available for mobiles by more than 75 percent.

You can read the full Ofcom announcement below:

4G auction bidders announced

"Ofcom has today announced the bidders in the forthcoming 4G mobile spectrum auction – the largest ever sale of mobile airwaves in the UK.

The following organisations have qualified to bid in the auction, which will start in January 2013:

Everything Everywhere Limited (UK)
HKT (UK) Company Limited (a subsidiary of PCCW Limited)
Hutchison 3G UK Limited
MLL Telecom Ltd
Niche Spectrum Ventures Limited (a subsidiary of BT Group plc)
Telefónica UK Limited
Vodafone Limited

Bidders will be competing to acquire new capacity to roll out superfast 4G mobile broadband services to cities, towns and villages across the UK.

This new spectrum will boost the amount of airwaves available to mobile phones by more than 75% and will play a critical role in helping to meet a growing demand for mobile data among consumers.

Ed Richards, Ofcom Chief Executive, said: “The 4G auction will be a competitive process that will dictate the shape of the UK mobile phone market for the next decade and beyond.

“New 4G services will stimulate investment, growth and innovation in the UK and deliver significant benefits to consumers in terms of better, faster and more reliable mobile broadband connections.”

Ensuring effective competition

In July 2012, Ofcom published the outcome of its competition assessment of the UK mobile market. This concluded that UK consumers are likely to benefit from better services at lower prices if there are at least four credible national wholesalers of mobile services.

Therefore, in the interests of competition, Ofcom has designed the auction in a way intended to achieve this outcome.

Auction lots

Bidders will be competing for spectrum in two separate bands – 800 MHz and 2.6 GHz. The lower frequency 800 MHz band is part of the ‘digital dividend’ freed up when analogue terrestrial TV was switched off, 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. Both bands are being packaged into smaller lots for the auction.

This combination of low and high frequency spectrum creates the potential for 4G mobile broadband services to be widely available across the UK, while offering capacity to cope with significant demand in urban centres.

What to expect from 4G

4G services should make it much quicker to surf the web on mobiles – speeds will be nearer to what is currently experienced with home broadband.

As a result, 4G is ideally suited for high-bandwidth data services such as streaming high-quality video, watching live TV and downloading large files.

For the typical user, download speeds of initial 4G networks will be at least 5-7 times those for existing 3G networks. This means a music album taking 20 minutes to download on a 3G phone and just over three minutes on 4G. This is based on existing 3G speeds being 1 Mbit/s on average and 4G speed being 6 Mbit/s (on average between 5 and 7 times faster).

4G consumer information

Ofcom has also launched a 4G consumer page, which provides information on the upcoming auction and the consumer benefits that new services will deliver.