4G spectrum auction by the end of this year

Ofcom, the telecom’s regulator in the UK has at last announced that spectrum auction in the UK would take place by the close of this year. Hence the next generation 4G mobile would be rolled out in 2013.

The volume of spectrum that is going to be auctioned now is almost three fourth of the mobile spectrum that is being currently used. In other words around 80 percent more of spectrum than what was released in 2000 through the 3G auction. The broadband roll out is expected to cover at least 98 percent of residents in cities, towns and villages in the UK. This could be achieved through the fourth generation mobile technology. Wireless devices and phones would be provided with better mobile data speeds.

The regulator has decided to conduct the auction and has taken to provide 4G mobile broadband to all consumers in the UK giving maximum benefits. In order to make sure that the consumers are benefited from a competitive market, Ofcom has reserved part of the spectrum for a fourth national wholesaler. The Chief Executive of Ofcom, Ed Richards said that the auction of 4G spectrum is designed in such a way that maximum benefit would be provided to consumers and citizens throughout the country.

The consumers in the UK would be able to use their mobile devices to stream videos, surf the web and download email attachments from almost all houses as a result of the measures taken by the regulator.

New mobile capacity
Minimum two spectrum bands would be provided by the 4G auction, 800 MHz and 2.6GHz. 800 MHz spectrum, the lower frequency band is perfect for large scale mobile coverage while 2.6GHz band, the higher frequency band is best to deliver the capacity needed for delivering faster speeds. Currently 333 MHz of mobile spectrum is being used and the new 800 MHz and 2.6GHz bands would add up to an additional mobile spectrum of 250 MHz. The auction is for the combination of high and low frequency spectrum and as such throughout the UK 4G mobile broadband services would be widely available and the demand from the urban areas could be easily met with.

Promoting competition
Ofcom concluded that if there are at least four national wholesalers of fourth generation mobile services, consumers in the UK would be able to get better services at lower prices. With that aim in mind, Ofcom has reserved a portion of spectrum for a fourth national wholesaler, Hutchinson or any other new entrant.

Coverage Obligation
Ofcom has decided to auction spectrum bands as a series of lots. One of the lots of spectrum would contain an obligation. The obligation is to provide to at least 98 percent of the population in the UK, indoor reception of mobile broadband service, by the close of 2017. For providing high levels of coverage, 800 MHz spectrum is best suited. Ofcom believes that when obligation is imposed on one provider, it would drive other providers also to extend their coverage.

Ensuring good coverage in the nations
Moreover, according to the UK-wide coverage obligation, the regulator required the same operator to provide to at least 95 per cent of the population of each one of the UK nations like England Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales, the same indoor service. It is expected that when this obligation is met with, the outdoor coverage would rise to 98 – 99 percent.

Next steps
The regulator wants to conduct the auction without any further delay. Ofcom also plans to publish a draft of the legal instrument by which it could implement the auction rules subject to the statutory consultation which is scheduled on 11th September 2012. Ofcom requires the potential bidders to file formal applications to take part in the auction so that the auction proceedings could be initiated before the close of this year. All the received applications would be scrutinised before the auction which is expected to be during Q1 of 2013. By the middle of 2013, using the auctioned spectrum, Communications providers would be able to rollout 4G mobile networks and it is expected that consumers would be getting the 4G mobile services by the end of 2013.

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