UK 4G Auction Rules Set; Networks Start Raiding The Piggy Bank

By Chris Mills on at

So, we finally have a set-in-stone date for the sweet, soothing rays of competitively-priced 4G to hit our shores. The telecoms regulator Ofcom has published the rules for the 4G spectrum auction, giving a timeline for when licenses will be given, and letting us know whenabouts that switch will finally be flipped.

The reserve price for the two chunks of spectrum going under the hammer is £1.3 billion - a steal when you consider the 3G spectrum auction back in 2000 raised a whopping £22.5 billion. The auction should start in early January, and in the run-up there'll be all sorts of seminars and mock auctions, so that hopefully this time Ofcom won't take the networks to the cleaners. (To be clear, I don't have lots of sympathy for the networks -- I'm just hoping that lower costs upfront for the networks will mean cheaper plans for us in the long term.)

The actual auction will be held online, though not (sadly) on eBay. The auction procedure is quite complicated, and comes with a whole swathe of paperwork to explain the rules (the actual document runs to 70 pages). All things going well, the actual bidding will start in early January; licences to be granted in February/March, and the networks should go live in May/June 2013.

The way it's shaping up, it looks like a 2-way tussle between Vodafone and O2 for the 800MHz and 2.6GHz spectrum bands -- Everything Everywhere's already sorted after its launch of 4GEE on the existing 1800MHz spectrum, and since Three bought a chunk of that 1800MHz earlier this year, they shouldn't be in the mix either. [Ofcom via TechCrunch]

Image credit: Mobile mast from Shutterstock