UK’s 4G auction officially begins

The starter pistol to begin the UK’s largest ever mobile spectrum auction has now been fired as Ofcom today (23 January 2013) officially opened the bidding process.

The auction will see seven bidders contest over prized spectrum real estate with major telecom firms EE, Telefónica, Vodafone and BT (via subsidiary Niche Spectrum Ventures) all taking part.

The process is being conducted online through secure connections which are used in tandem with custom software that has been specifically designed for the auction. Bidders are competing over 28 spectrum lots that have been separated in two bands 800MHz – byproduct from the analogue switchover – and the larger 2.6GHz which adds up to 250MHz of additional mobile spectrum.

The auction’s presiding regulator expects the bidding process to take a few weeks as it consists of several rounds. The eventual winners will then be given a special license confirming their LTE allotment which is dispensed only after payment is received. If it all goes as planned the new services will be launched in time for spring this year.

“Today’s 4G auction is a very significant milestone for the UK’s communications sector,” said Ofcom chief, Ed Richards.

“It will release the essential raw material for the next wave of mobile digital services. This will change the way we consume digital media in both our personal and working lives and deliver significant benefits to millions of consumers and businesses across the country,” he explained.

Ramifications of the auction's launch are already being felt with EE launching a new promotion as a possible preemptive strike in a soon-to-be competitive marketplace.