4G UK: Ofcom reveals seven bidders for spectrum auction

4G mobile services finally launched in the United Kingdom just a few months ago on October 30 by EE, the joint venture company which also encompasses T-Mobile and Orange in the UK. EE was granted special permission by the telecommunications regulator, Ofcom, to convert and reallocate existing 3G spectrum in the 1800MHz band, enabling the company to launch 4G services ahead of any other network operator in the UK.  

But EE's 4G monopoly will soon end, and the first step in that process will be the auction in which companies will compete to purchase mobile spectrum allocations through which they will run their own 4G services. The auction will begin in January 2013, and today, Ofcom has announced that seven companies have qualified to take part in the process:

  • Everything Everywhere Limited (UK) - including EE 4G, T-Mobile UK and Orange UK
  • Vodafone Limited
  • Hutchison 3G UK Limited - which operates the Three network
  • Telefónica UK Limited - including O2 and giffgaff
  • Niche Spectrum Ventures Limited (a subsidiary of BT Group plc)
  • MLL Telecom
  • HKT (UK) Company Limited (a subsidiary of PCCW Limited)

The latter two companies in the list are telecommunications infrastructure providers, with both already offering wireless and fixed-line solutions to large enterprises across the UK.

The auction will offer spectrum in two bands: 800MHz, which has been freed up by the termination of analogue terrestrial TV signals, which Ofcom says is well-suited to ensuring widespread 4G coverage; and the higher-frequency 2.6GHz (or 2600MHz, if you prefer) band, which is "ideal for delivering the capacity needed to deliver faster speeds".

Ofcom says that it expects that successful bidders will be able to launch their first 4G services in these bands by late Spring 2013. The  advent of competition in 4G will inevitably help to bring down the costs of these services to consumers - so you may want to hold off a few months before jumping on the 4G bandwagon.

Many UK consumers have responded negatively to the pricing and ungenerous data allowances of EE's 4G tariffs; price plans start at £36 per month, including unlimited texts and voice calls, but offers just 500MB of data, rising to £56 per month with 8GB of data. By comparison, a £41 price plan on T-Mobile 3G - also owned by EE - includes unlimited voice, texts and data. EE customers are also charged more for handsets, despite both EE and T-Mobile offering identical 4G-enabled devices.

Source: Ofcom (1) (2)

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A lot of the LTE phones in the UK at the moment in particular the iPhone 5 only supports LTE on 1800Mhz, The Galaxy S3 LTE supports 800, 1800 and 2600, same goes for the HTC One XL

It'll be interesting to see what the take up of 4G services are on the current service provided by EE because the pricing and data allowances are ridiculous.

Also, as highlighted above, will the current LTE enabled phones on the market all support the frequencies that are on offer, or will customers be left out because their phone doesn't support that particular frequency provided by the network?

Seriously hope Three get this, EE are a bunch of criminals who will do anything to take your money including lying to you

Interesting with the 2.6GHz frequency acution because the only real mainstream phone that supports it at the moment is the Galaxy SIII, will be interesting to see if handset makers actually adopt it and which telcos bid for it because there isn't any real demand for it at the moment.

Not at the prices they are going to charge and the ridiculous small caps they will put on it like EE. With 4G you will hit that 500mb cap in minutes if you download full speed.

I'm holding out on Three buying up a decent chunk of the spectrum and keeping their "All you can eat" policy. That's the only reason I'm on three and I'd happily pay a small premium (Say £5) to have 4G LTE with unlimited data over 3G with unlimited.

I wouldn't touch 4G, even if it was the same price, if it has stupid caps like EE's does.

"Not at the prices they are going to charge and the ridiculous small caps they will put on it like EE. With 4G you will hit that 500mb cap in minutes if you download full speed."

Yes, but who the hell downloads at full speed constantly? I usually use 60-80gb a month here in NZ, when I got fibre people kept saying "ohhh you'll need more data cos you'll hit that cap real fast!" Dafuq does that happen? A 5gb file is still 5gb whether it's transferred at 1kbit or 100mbits, if I use 60gb one month will I suddenly use 120gb the next because it's faster? Nope!

I mean sure, if the Internet was an open pipe that poured non stop data all over the floor then yeah, a bigger pipe would mean more data flowing and more used in a set time space but it's not.

Auzeras said,
"Not at the prices they are going to charge and the ridiculous small caps they will put on it like EE. With 4G you will hit that 500mb cap in minutes if you download full speed."

Yes, but who the hell downloads at full speed constantly? I usually use 60-80gb a month here in NZ, when I got fibre people kept saying "ohhh you'll need more data cos you'll hit that cap real fast!" Dafuq does that happen? A 5gb file is still 5gb whether it's transferred at 1kbit or 100mbits, if I use 60gb one month will I suddenly use 120gb the next because it's faster? Nope!

I mean sure, if the Internet was an open pipe that poured non stop data all over the floor then yeah, a bigger pipe would mean more data flowing and more used in a set time space but it's not.


Fair enough but 500mb to last a full month on the fastest data network is still ridiculous, especially what they charge for it and what they get charged for it.

ingramator said,
Interesting with the 2.6GHz frequency acution because the only real mainstream phone that supports it at the moment is the Galaxy SIII.

Nokia's website said that the 2.6 GHz band is supported for LTE on the Nokia Lumia 820 and Nokia Lumia 920.

Bands

GSM 850
GSM 900
GSM 1800
GSM 1900
WCDMA Band V (850 MHz)
WCDMA Band VIII (900 MHz)
WCDMA Band IV (1700 MHz)
WCDMA Band II (1900 MHz)
WCDMA Band I (2100 MHz)
LTE 700
LTE 800
LTE 850
LTE 900
LTE 1700
LTE 1800
LTE 1900
LTE 2100
LTE 2600