Ofcom has announced the winners of the UK 4G LTE spectrum auction and it hopes that all winners will start rolling out LTE in the UK within six months; which is fantastic news for our UK readers. The auction raised around 2.34 billion pounds which is over a billion pounds less than it expected.
The winners were the expected major networks already present in the UK, namely Vodafone, Everything Everywhere, Hutchison 3G UK, Telefonica, and Vodafone. Niche Spectrum Ventures Ltd which is a subsidiary of BT Group PLC also picked up the smallest share of the spectrum.
After more than 50 rounds of bidding, Everything Everywhere Ltd, Hutchison 3G UK Ltd, Niche Spectrum Ventures Ltd (a subsidiary of BT Group plc), Telefónica UK Ltd and Vodafone Ltd have all won spectrum. This is suitable for rolling out new superfast mobile broadband services to consumers and to small and large businesses across the UK.
The auction has achieved Ofcom’s purpose of promoting strong competition in the 4G mobile market. This is expected to lead to faster mobile broadband speeds, lower prices, greater innovation, new investment and better coverage. Almost the whole UK population will be able to receive 4G mobile services by the end of 2017 at the latest.
Ed Richards, Ofcom Chief Executive, said: “This is a positive outcome for competition in the UK, which will lead to faster and more widespread mobile broadband, and substantial benefits for consumers and businesses across the country. We are confident that the UK will be among the most competitive markets in the world for 4G services.
The next stage of the auction will take place very soon to decide where in the 800MHz and 2.6GHz bands each winning bidder’s spectrum will be located; this is known as the assignment stage. When that is complete, Ofcom will issue 4G licences which will enable the winners to start the roll out 4G LTE services. It is widely expected that we will see some significant news on widespread availability in the late spring or early summer of this year.
The biggest benefit of 4G LTE will be a huge increase in data speeds on mobile devices however those in areas that have poor fixed line broadband also stand to benefit greatly from 4G. According to Ofcom, 4G coverage will extend way beyond existing 3G offerings and will cover 98% of the UK population indoors and outdoors. This news, if it turns out to be true, will be music to the ears of UK consumers who have had to deal with spotty 3G connections for way too long!
One note of caution, this is slightly different to the 4G services that EE currently offers and the one that Three UK is planning on rolling out very soon too. The auction wins cover spectrum on the 800MHz and 2.6GHz bands which are not currently compatible with the iPhone 5. Because of this, Apple will have to change its radios to match these new bands so an upgrade in hardware to benefit from 4G when it is launched on these frequencies will be needed.