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Ofcom announces 4G auction bidders


Seven companies in the frame for auction of British 4G bandwidth

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The UK telecoms and broadcasting regulator Ofcom has formally announced the bidders for the country's 4G bandwidth auction.

In a statement on Thursday, Ofcom said the bidders include EE or Everything Everywhere (an Orange and T-Mobile joint venture), Niche Spectrum Ventures (a BT subsidiary), Vodafone, O2, Three, PCCW (a Hong Kong-based telecoms services provider) and UK network supplier MLL Telecom.

The regulator said the new spectrum will boost the amount of airwaves available to mobile phones by more than 75 percent and will play a critical role in helping to meet a growing demand for mobile data among UK consumers.

The auction is due to commence in January, with licences being granted by March and services launching in May and June. Of the bidders, EE was permitted to launch the UK's first 4G service using existing spare bandwidth capacity on 30 October.

Announcing the move, Ed Richards, chief executive of Ofcom, said, "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."

"New 4G services will stimulate investment, growth and innovation in the UK and deliver significant benefits to consumers in terms of better, faster and more reliable mobile broadband connections," he added.

The auction will be making use of the 800MHz radio spectrum freed up by the switch from analogue to digital television, and also offers an additional higher-frequency 2.6GHz band. Additional 4G capacity will be made available in the coming years.

For instance, the Ministry of Defence said that it would also auction off even higher frequency bandwidth – up to 15GHz – in 2014. Furthermore, a ruling by the European Union requires Ofcom to allow UK mobile operators to switch their existing 3G bandwidth over to 4G from 2014.

The current auction is expected to raise £3.5 billion for the UK Treasury, according to the Office for Budget Responsibility. However, this compares unfavourably with the £22 billion raised by the auction of 3G spectrum space held in 2000.

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Ofcom announces 4G auction bidders
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