Seven bidders will compete next year in the auction of bandwiths for 4G mobile broadband services in Britain, the government’s Office of Communications (Ofcom) announced today.
Vodafone, BT and the Hong Kong conglomerate PCCW will be among the bidders in what will be the largest ever sale of mobile airwaves in the UK.
Others bidding when the auction gets underway in January will be Telefonica – the 02 parent company - Hutchison 3G, Everything Everywhere (EE) and UK network supplier MLL Telecom.
"The 4G auction will be a competitive process that will dictate the shape of the UK mobile phone market for the next decade and beyond," said Ed Richards, Ofcom’s chief executive.
In a statement, the regulator said the auction would mark the start of an era of "better, faster and more reliable mobile broadband connections" for consumers across the UK.
EE – a merger of Orange and T-Mobile – has already started 4G services in major cities this year but will be bidding to secure more airwaves. Almost 30 lots of spectrum will be on sale in two separate bands: higher frequency 2.6 GHz and lower frequency 800 MHz.
The government hopes that the sale will raise at least £3 billion. Last week, mobile operators in the Netherlands paid a similar sum in its 4G auction.
In a bid to drive competition, Ofcom has designed the auction with the aim of getting at least four companies to provide 4G in the UK.
For consumers, the new services should be between five and seven times faster than existing 3G phones, meaning that a music album that currently takes about 20 minutes to download, will take about three minutes with 4G.
The changes will no doubt be result in increased workloads for those managing international assignments in the telecoms industry not to mention the implications of managing talent in this competitive market place.
What to expect from 4G
4G services should make it much quicker to surf the web on mobiles – speeds will be nearer to what is currently experienced with home broadband.
As a result, 4G is ideally suited for high-bandwidth data services such as streaming high-quality video, watching live TV and downloading large files.
For the typical user, download speeds of initial 4G networks will be at least 5-7 times those for existing 3G networks. This means a music album taking 20 minutes to download on a 3G phone and just over three minutes on 4G. This is based on existing 3G speeds being 1 Mbit/s on average and 4G speed being 6 Mbit/s (on average between 5 and 7 times faster).
4G consumer information
Ofcom has also launched a 4G consumer page, which provides information on the upcoming auction and the consumer benefits that new services will deliver.