The much-anticipated LTE spectrum auction in the United Kingdom is scheduled to begin this year, but there won’t be any bidding until 2013. The United Kingdom’s telecom regulating authority, Ofcom, announced the details of the plan today that aims to provide nearly the entire population of Great Britain with access to the latest high-speed Internet technology.
The delay between the auction beginning and bids being accepted was attributed to Ofcom needing time to go through bidder applications.
“The 4G auction has been designed to deliver the maximum possible benefit to consumers and citizens across the U.K.,” said Ed Richards, Ofcom’s chief executive. “As a direct result of the measures Ofcom is introducing, consumers will be able to surf the web, stream videos and download email attachments on their mobile device from almost every home in the U.K.”
The auction will focus on the 800 MHz and 2.6 GHz spectrum bands. In an effort to bring new competition to the market, Ofcom will set aside a section of spectrum that cannot be bid on by the three largest U.K. operators: Vodafone, Telefónica’s O2 and Everything Everywhere, a joint venture of Deutsche Telekom’s T-Mobile and France’s Orange. The reserved section can only be purchased by an existing, smaller fourth operator such as Hutchinson’s 3G or a new entrant to the market.
The government noted the auction will provide 250 megahertz of new spectrum to carriers, on top of the 333 megahertz already being used today.
In another effort to increase competition, Ofcom will require the purchaser of one of the 800 MHz lots of spectrum to provide mobile broadband indoor access to 98% of the population by the end of 2017. Ofcom’s hope is that this would spur competitors to follow suit, giving greater coverage and options to U.K. residents.
Along with the auction delay, Ofcom also postponed making a decision on EE’s request to start offering LTE services immediately with its existing 1800 MHz spectrum. EE had applied to Ofcom back in November 2011 to do this and conducted LTE trials in February of this year. It also commissioned a report that found that rolling out 4G technology could bring $9 billion for Great Britain in direct investments and 125,000 j0bs.
According to Matthew Howett, a practice leader on regulation and policy with Ovum, the delay in this decision will be a disappointment to many people awaiting LTE services.
“Many believed that permitting EE to launch 4G early in its existing spectrum holding at 1800 MHz was the consolation prize; however this has faced its own set of problems and isn’t dealt with in this consolation — but remains something which everyone is eagerly awaiting to learn the outcome of,” he said.