Ofcom has announced the start of the largest ever auction of spectrum for mobile services in the UK.
The auction for spectrum that will host the so-called 4G networks will get under way before the end of 2012, despite concern over interference to current digital TV services that broadcast on frequencies adjacent to the 800MHz band on offer.
Services, which will also use frequencies at 2.6GHz are expected to be operational as early as next year.
The lower frequency 800MHz band is suited to widespread mobile coverage. The higher frequency 2.6 GHz band is ideal for delivering the capacity needed to deliver faster speeds. These two bands add up to 250 MHz of additional mobile spectrum, compared to 333 MHz in use today.
The spectrum bands will be auctioned to bidders as a series of lots. One of the 800MHz lots of spectrum will carry an obligation to provide a mobile broadband service for indoor reception to at least 98% of the UK population by the end of 2017 at the latest.
“The 4G auction has been designed to deliver the maximum possible benefit to consumers and citizens across the UK,” said Ofcom chief executive Ed Richards. “As a direct result of the measures Ofcom is introducing, consumers will be able to surf the web, stream videos and download email attachments on their mobile device from almost every home in the UK.”
In an attempt to distance itself from the TV interference issue Ofcom said the auctions were based on “government decisions”.
The UK government has committed £180 million (€216 million) to fund solutions to TV interference caused by new 4G mobile services.