Ofcom has set a reserve price of £1.3 billion ($2.1 billion) for the spectrum it will sell in the UK’s forthcoming 4G auction, as well as announcing December 11 as the provisional date for the submission of license bids.
That date is to be confirmed over the next two weeks after new regulations regarding the auction process come into effect.
The UK regulator says 4G services could be launched as soon as May, with winning bidders announced sometime in February or March.
Ofcom is under pressure to speedily award frequencies in the 800MHz and 2.6GHz bands for use with 4G services, having given a 4G headstart to EE (London, UK) – the joint venture between Deutsche Telekom (Bonn, Germany) and France Telecom (Paris, France) – by allowing it to launch the superfast mobile technology over its existing 1800MHz airwaves.
EE began providing the UK’s first 4G services in late October, while rival operators have urged consumers to wait several months for a better deal.
Yet EE is likely to have an edge even after Vodafone (Newbury, UK) and Telefonica-owned O2 (London, UK) launch 4G services.
The 1800MHz band it is using has become a focus for equipment makers and is already compatible with some of the world’s most popular 4G devices, including Apple’s iPhone 5.
The 800MHz and 2.6GHz bands, meanwhile, have yet to attract much support from smartphone manufacturers and are typically used to provide mobile-broadband services to laptops using plug-in dongles.
That is likely to change, however, as more high-profile operators launch 800MHz and 2.6GHz services in large European markets.
“Today marks an important shift from preparation to the delivery of the auction, which will see widespread 4G mobile services from a range of providers,” said Ed Richards, Ofcom’s chief executive, in a statement.
“The entire industry is now focused on the auction itself, with a shared goal of delivering new and improved mobile services for consumers,” he said.