Photograph by Karl Baron
Superfast 4G mobile phone coverage will be available in the UK next year, after industry regulator Ofcom today gave the go-ahead to the UK’s largest ever spectrum auction.
It is hoped as a result that 98% of the UK will be within range of a 4G signal by 2017, meaning greater mobile access for people in rural areas.
The auction will be divided into four lots: one for each of the four mobile networks. The most coveted section of the airwaves will be worth £250 million and the winner will be tasked with ensuring the target 98% coverage.
In the hope of improving competition, Ofcom will reserve part of the spectrum for the smallest provider, Three, or another competitor should one emerge.
The airwaves up for auction come in two bands: the low frequency 800MHz and the higher 2600MHz. The former travels further and requires fewer masts, while the latter is better suited to delivering faster speeds.
The equivalent of three quarters of the mobile spectrum currently in use will be auctioned, 80% more than was released at the 3G auction in 2000.
Ofcom chief executive Ed Richards said: ‘The 4G auction has been designed to deliver the maximum possible benefit to consumers and citizens across the UK.
‘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.’
Corin Taylor, Senior Economic Adviser at the Institute of Directors, said: “British business has long been keen to get the deployment of 4G mobile services underway, so this is good news.
Done properly, the Government can gain useful income at the same time as opening up a new class of digital infrastructure. Connectivity is hugely important to having a successful, modern economy, so many businesses around the country will be glad that 4G is finally on the way.”