While the UK may have been at the forefront of 3G rollout back at the turn of the millennium, it has been lagging behind hugely in relation to 4G but Ofcom has now begun a consultation process that hopefully will move it forward.
The regulatory body has begun a consultation process, which will try to establish the best way to sell off the rights to the next generation mobile network. The auction, which won’t begin until early 2012 it is believed, will be the largest ever seen in the UK and will be comparable to three quarters of the current mobile spectrum. While Vodafone and O2 have previously been allowed to use some of the old 2G network to test the LTE system, smaller operator, Three, has complained to Ofcom that this will give the larger networks a greater advantage since it doesn’t possess any of the old 2G network.
In a bid to appease the smaller networks, Ofcom has said it will impose a cap on the amount of bandwidth any one company can win at auction. The auction will sell off the parts of the wireless spectrum being freed up by the analogue television switchover. The 800MHz and 2.6GHz bandwidths will be sold off and all companies will be eager to access the lower frequency due to its better connection over long distances such as in rural areas. There will also be a cap on the amount of low-frequency bandwidth any one company can win.
"Our role as the independent regulator is to award this spectrum in a way that secures the best use of the spectrum for the benefit of citizens and consumers in the UK," the Ofcom chief executive, Ed Richards, said. "That is why we are proposing to design the auction in a way that not only encourages investment but also promotes competition and delivers wide coverage of services."
The 2000 auction of the 3G spectrum garnered £22.5 billion for the Treasury however it is expected that nothing like this windfall will result this time. Whatever the amount of money bid, consumers will be more interested that the process has begun and that the possibility of getting 4G network in the UK is a step closer.