Monday, November 12, 2012

Ofcom finalises 4G auction rules

Ofcom today released the final regulations and a timetable for the 4G mobile spectrum auction (press release here). This follows the publication of its plans for the auction process in July 2012.

The process commences on 11 December 2012, the provisional date for the submission of applications by prospective bidders, with new services expected to be launched in May/June 2013. Ofcom has published a full statement on the auction together with a new 4G consumer page which provides an overview of what we should expect from 4G services.

Today's announcement hopefully represents the end of a long period of uncertainty over the future of 4G in the UK. 4G services are already available in some parts of the country, following Ofcom's decision to allow Everything Everywhere (now re-branded as EE) to launch 4G services at  the end of October 2012 in advance of the auction, based on its existing spectrum holdings. This led to threats of litigation from the other UK mobile operators: unable to launch rival services until they have acquried the necessary spectrum via Ofcom's auction, other operators initially viewed Ofcom's decision as giving EE an unfair first-mover advantage, distorting the marketplace.

Peace was subsequently brokered in talks between Culture Secretary Maria Miller, Ofcom and operators at the beginning of October 2012 on the basis of proposals to accelerate the roll-out of 4G services following the auction process. Given that mobile broadband usage continues to increase rapidly (according to Ofcom's 2012 Communications Market Report, four in ten adults in the UK now own a smartphone, with 42% of these saying their smartphone is the most important device for accessing the internet), 4G services can't come soon enough.

Coverage and comment on today's announcement from ISP Review and the BBC.

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