Ofcom has today announced that they expect the 4G auction process will start by the end of 2012, with the bidders having to formally apply to take part. The applications will then be assessed by Ofcom before bidding starts which is likely to be in early 2013.
This will then allow network operators to start rolling out their 4G networks in the middle of 2013 and offering 4G services later in 2013.
Ofcom have released the auction rules in a draft of the legal instrument, there will now be a statutory consultation period that closes on 11 September 2012. This period will allow the operators to look at the rules surrounding the auction and bidding process. If they are not satisfied with what they read, then there may be a case for one or more of the operators to start legal objections against the rules if they believe the rules are not fair and proper. This would of course lead to more delays in the process.
The plans for the 4G auction should see mobile broadband being available to 98% of the UK, this will have substantial benefits for businesses and the general public in the UK.
Ofcom will be auctioning off 80% of the available 4G spectrum on the 800MHz and 2.6GHz frequencies which is expected to go to the three largest mobile operators. The other 20% is being reserved by Ofcom for a fourth operator. Ofcom believe that by doing this, UK consumers are likely to benefit from better services at lower prices if there are at least four wholesalers of 4G services.
We will now have to wait until after 11 September 2012 to see if any of the operators have submitted objectiosn to the process and to hear what, if any, effects this has to the timing of the process.
Meanwhile, Ofcom still have to make a decision on Everything Everywhere’s proposal to roll out a 4G service in the UK ahead of the auction using their existing spectrum.