The UK telecoms regulator Ofcom has kicked off the country’s long-awaited 4G auction, having called for applications from would-be bidders in line with previously announced plans. Confirming the development on its website, Ofcom stated that interested parties had from between 10.00 and 16.00 yesterday to lodge their applications, in addition to an initial deposit of GBP100,000 (USD160,875). Detailing the next steps in the sale process, Ofcom noted that it will review all applications to ensure bidders are qualified to take part in the auction itself, with the watchdog noting that it would carry out a range of checks, ‘from ensuring the information submitted is correct through to ensuring that there is no overlap between applications, which could distort the auction’. Following qualification of those companies that have indicated their desire to take part in the sale, Ofcom has said it expects to name all successful applicants by ‘early in the New Year’.
As previously reported by CommsUpdate, last month Ofcom published the final regulations and timetable for the 4G mobile spectrum auction, while it also confirmed the reserve prices for the 800MHz and 2.6GHz frequencies, with the combined total standing at GBP1.3 billion (USD2.07 billion). In terms of the timings for the sale process, following the qualification stage in December, bidding is expected to begin next month, with the regulator noting that this stage could take ‘a number of weeks’. In either February or March, dependent on how long the bidding process runs for, winning bidders will be informed of which concessions they have secured, and fees will become payable, following which the licences will be granted. According to Ofcom’s proposed schedule, meanwhile, commercial 4G services are then expected to be inaugurated by June 2013, bringing competition to the UK’s largest cellco by subscribers EE, which launched commercial Long Term Evolution (LTE) services last month using its existing spectrum holdings in the 1800MHz band.
Commenting on the latest development, Ofcom CEO Ed Richards noted: ‘We have fired the starting gun on the 4G auction process. In the past year alone, mobile internet usage has doubled. The 4G auction will release crucial capacity to support future growth, helping to boost UK productivity, innovation and drive significant improvements to mobile broadband availability across the UK.’