October 2nd 2012. Ofcom has welcomed the significant progress that has been made in moving forward the delivery of competitive 4G mobile services across the UK. This progress means that the 4G auction process is on track to begin at the end of the year to enable competitive 4G services across UK during the first half of 2013. Ed Richards, Ofcom Chief Executive, said, “The actions we have taken with industry and government avoids the risk of significant delay and is tremendous news for consumers who might otherwise have waited a considerable period for the next generation of mobile broadband services. “Ofcom’s objective has always been to release the spectrum as early as possible and we remain focused on starting the auction by the end of the year.”
Ofcom’s 4G work
Over the last 18 months Ofcom has consulted on how it proposes to auction the spectrum in a way that ensures it is available as quickly as possible and in a way that ensures a competitive market.
To further secure 4G services for UK consumers, in August Ofcom gave approval to an application by Everything Everywhere (now EE) to use some of its existing spectrum to offer a 4G service. This is expected to launch this year.
Release of 4G spectrum
Ofcom plans to start the auction process to release spectrum at the end of the year, with bidding starting early in 2013.
Ofcom’s consistent objective has been to ensure that the 4G spectrum – at 800 MHz and 2.6 GHz – is made available as soon as possible.
Following discussions with TV broadcasters, Digital UK and the transmission company Arqiva, Ofcom has secured the earlier release of frequencies that were previously used for digital-terrestrial broadcasting.
This spectrum will now be cleared and ready for 4G mobile services across much of the UK five months earlier than previously planned, from Spring 2013.
This has only become possible in the past few months as a result of the significant progress that has been made to date with the digital switchover and the clearance programme itself, which has been running ahead of schedule.
This means that more UK consumers will be able to benefit from a competitive market for super-fast mobile broadband sooner than previously possible.
For example, following intensive technical planning work, the clearance date for TV transmitters in Oxford and Waltham – which would otherwise prevent deployment of 4G mobile services to around 9 million people in cities including London, Birmingham, Coventry, Leicester, Nottingham and Sheffield – will be brought forward by five months to May 2013.
Similarly, the clearance date for transmitters which impact around 1 million people in and around Glasgow and Edinburgh will be brought forward by more than three months to April 2013.
This follows similar steps led by Ofcom during the past year to accelerate the spectrum clearance programme.
In July 2012, Ofcom announced plans for the largest ever auction of spectrum for mobile services in the UK to enable the launch of super-fast mobile broadband services.
The auction will offer the equivalent of three quarters of the mobile spectrum in use today – some 80 per cent more than released in the 3G auction which took place in 2000.
The plans include a requirement that mobile broadband services will be available indoors to at least 98 per cent of people in villages, towns and cities across the UK. Outdoor coverage should exceed 99 per cent of the population
In August 2012, Ofcom approved an application by the mobile phone operator EE to use its existing 1800 MHz spectrum to deliver 4G services. Following a consultation, Ofcom concluded that varying EE’s 1800 MHz licences would deliver significant benefits to consumers.
Ofcom is the independent regulator and competition authority for the UK communications industries, with responsibilities across television, radio, telecommunications, wireless communications and postal services.