December 12, 2012

4G Auction Applications Now Submitted

The UK mobile operators interested in securing a 4G Mobile Licence have now submitted their applications to Ofcom along with the application fee of £100,000.

EE ( which owns Orange and T-Mobile ) has already launched its 4GEE mobile network in 12 cities to-date. This was possible because Ofcom approved a concession to EE to launch its 4G services in one of the existing 2G frequency bands ( 1800MHz ) ahead of the scheduled 4G auction.

Vodafone, O2 and Three have to wait to launch its own 4G mobile networks until May 2012 when the auction concludes. The two 4G frequency bands that are being auctioned are within the 800MHz and 2.6GHz frequency bands. The 800Mhz frequency band is believed to the best for both indoor and outdoor 4G signal reception. This was the band previously used by Analogue TV users and the use of 4G in the 800MHz band is going to cause TV interference for many Digital TV users. The Government has allocated £180 million pounds to fit suitable interference filters to homes near 4G masts. More on that here.

Ofcom will review the 4G applications and confirm the successful 4G mobile licence applicants in January, 2013. Once approved the applicants then compete in the 4G auction in a bid to win their desired 4G mobile licence/s. Ofcom say it will then be a number of weeks before the successful 4G mobile licence holders are notified.

The UK Chancellor advised during his Autumn budget speech last week that he anticipates around £3.5 billion from the sale of the 4G mobile licences yet the reserve is only £1.2 billion, so it will be interesting to see what they are actually sold for.

The 4G mobile licence bidders are likely to be Vodafone and O2 but no one really knows if EE and Three will take part. This is mainly due to EE having already launched 4G in the 1800MHz band and nothing has been mentioned of EE buying more 4G spectrum in the 800MHz and 2.6Ghz frequency bands. Three are in the same position having bought some 1800MHz 4G spectrum from EE but they are not authorised to use this until around September 2013.

It would be useful for some larger operators to have frequency spectrum in all bands as the 800MHz frequency band is useful for both indoor and outdoor 4G services whilst the 2.6GHz frequency spectrum is the best band for handling large numbers of 4G customers and for delivering the fastest 4G download and upload speeds.

4G.co.uk look forward to the outcome of the 4G auction so all parties can start offering 4G services at the earliest opportunity.