Ofcom has confirmed its plans to sell off the spectrum licenses that will be used for 4G mobile phones, and similar devices. But when will you start to see the benefits of faster mobile broadband speeds, and what could this ultimately mean?
The schedule is now in place to start auctioning process by the end of 2012, but the bidding phase is only going to start early next year for access to the 4G spectrum, on the 800MHz and 2.6GHz frequencies.
This is 80 per cent more spectrum than was released in 2000, when the 3G licenses were sold; it will be the largest auction of its type, in the UK.
The 800MHz frequency will give the greater coverage area, while the 2.6GHz band will cater for the increased capacity, or faster mobile broadband speeds.
Combined, these add up to 250MHz of an additional spectrum, compared to the 333MHz that is currently in use. There will also be a revision to the cost of the 900MHz and 1800MHz licenses, after this round of bidding is complete.
The view is to deliver 4G to 98 per cent of the UK by 2017. Ofcom has stated that at least one purchaser of these licenses will be obligated to use the 800MHz frequency, to ensure widespread coverage.
There will also be a stipulation for that particular mobile phone network to offer 4G coverage to 95 per cent of the homes in England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland.
Ofcom has indicated that we should start seeing mobile phone networks offering these 4G services to its customers, by the end of 2013.
Although the three biggest players - Everything Everywhere, O2 and Vodafone - are already geared up for the bidding, Ofcom has stated that part of the spectrum will be reserved for a fourth, smaller company.
The idea is to ensure some competition in the market and avoid any kind of cartel, while also promoting more competitive pricing structures for mobile data tariffs. It's more than likely that the fourth bidder will be Hutchinson 3G, since its Three network is already well established in the UK. If Three could offer a 4G version of its One Plan, it could well be onto a winner. Since most of us only have a landline to enable our broadband packages, the concept of unlimited mobile broadband at home broadband speed it pretty compelling.