Ofcom has announced that 2012 will see what it describes as “the largest ever single auction of additional spectrum for mobile services in the UK”, as networks scramble to grab a slice of 4G pie.
The regulator is keen to get 4G up and running as soon as possible, and aims to start the process in Q1 of 2012. The auction will offer an additional spectrum equivalent to 75% of those in use today. That’s a lot of spectrum.
We’re currently limited to 3G in the UK, which offers speeds of up to 3.6Mbps. Up to. Some lucky areas have HSDPA – sometimes referred to as 3.5G – which goes up to 7.2Mbps. The 4G technology will support speeds of up to 100Mbps on the move, and 1Gbps while stationary. Cripes.
Ofcom describes the introduction of 4G as “essential”, as data use continues to increase across the UK. Chief Executive, Ed Richards, explains: “The auction is not only critical to the future of the UK mobile telecommunications market but it is also of significant importance to the wider economy. It will support a wide range of data services that are fast becoming essential features of the modern world.”
As part of the auction, Ofcom hopes to include an obligation to provide 4G to rural areas, where 3G coverage is typically poorer than in cities.
The regulator will also ensure “at least four” providers will have access to the 4G spectrum. Presumably they’ll be the Big Four, namely Everything Everywhere (T-Mobile and Orange), O2, Vodafone and 3.
Pop over to the Ofcom site for the full announcement, including lots of techy stuff about frequencies and the like.