4G connectivity will be available in the UK starting in 2013

Kentoh, Shutterstock

After a long wait, there’s good news for United Kingdom residents as local regulator Ofcom has unveiled its plans to auction off the 4G wireless spectrum to UK carriers by the end of 2012. Ofcom states that mobile broadband will cover at least 98 percent of the United Kingdom with a spectrum sale 80 percent larger than 3G while promoting a competitive market environment. As most smartphone manufacturers are offering LTE-compatible devices, that is the most likely wireless technology to be implemented, but WiMAX is not out of the question.

The auction process, despite being delayed before, is likely to come to a close at the beginning of next year; and the official rollout of the 4G network is expected to be done by middle of 2013. At least two spectrum bands will be offered for auction, and the 800 MHz and 2.6 GHz are the first confirmed bands. The UK regulator wants to make sure the process goes smoothly and that there will be no suspicions of delays, putting to rest any possible rumors over their Twitter account: "4G auction plans on track (reports today of 'delay' are way off the mark)."

Ofcom wants to make sure that there will be no competition issues between the carriers, and has taken the safe road by automatically offering four seats at the auction table. Interested carriers will have to confirm their participation in the auction before it starts in early 2013.

Ofcom Chief Executive Ed Richards is confident in the success of the auction and implementation of the 4G network, stating that "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." This can only mean good news for UK residents, but that doesn’t automatically imply when they are going to start using the 4G networks.

Two out of three UK carriers, Everything Everywhere (Orange and T-Mobile) and O2, have responded to our inquiries regarding their interest in offering 4G connectivity to their United Kingdom subscribers.

An Everything Everywhere spokesperson told us:

"Today’s publication of the 4G auction rules is a crucial step towards bringing the benefits of faster mobile speeds and better connectivity to Britain, as well as stimulating £5.5bn investment into the UK economy. While there are still some elements of today’s proposal which we don’t think are in the interests of competition or consumers, we are pleased that Ofcom is moving in the right direction and we recognise that we need to get this process moving now before the UK falls further behind the rest of the world. However the auction is only one step towards bringing 4G to Britain. Everything Everywhere is committed to bringing 4G to the UK this year, and the next milestone will be the regulator’s response to our request to roll out 4G over our existing 1800MHz spectrum without further delay."

An O2 spokesperson followed by saying:

"Ofcom’s detailed rules for the auction represent a significant step towards 4G launch in the UK. Whilst Ofcom has taken a number of our suggestions on board, they are combined with other changes to the previous proposals. We will need to study the package in detail before responding to the Notice on the Regulations, which puts the rules into law."

Vodafone has yet to respond to our inquiry.

4G is a big step forward in the evolution of mobile technology, and major markets like the United States, Japan, Germany and Canada have already benefitted from the increased speeds it affords. New network technology often brings along delays in implementation, and high upfront costs to both the operator and the end user, but that is the tradeoff of evolution.

Photo: Kentoh, Shutterstock

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