The results of the 4G auction were announced today and after 50 rounds of bidding, Offcom, the UK network regulator has revealed that 5 separate mobile networks have been successful. Everything Everywhere (EE), Hutchinson 3G, Niche Spectrum Ventures (BT), Telefonica UK (O2) and Vodafone will all be able to offer their customers 4G services from this point, however, coverage in East Anglia is not likely to appear before the latter part of 2013. EE, who are currently the only provider of 4G do not have any coverage in East Anglia and the initial roll out is expected to be patchy in the same way as when the UK switched to digital.
A total of 250 MHz of the “spectrum” was auctioned in two separate bands, (800 MHz and 2.6 GHz.) Which is the equivalent of two-thirds of the current radio frequencies being used.
The 4G network is worth more than £50 billion to the UK economy as demand for internet access across tablet and smartphone devices grows ever more vigorously. Last year, 4G customers in other countries used 19 times more mobile data than those on 3G. Almost the whole of the UK economy will be able to receive 4G services by the end of 2017.
4G coverage will extend to 98% of UK indoor coverage, this will mean the biggest improvements for customers in rural areas who have never really experienced the benefits of 3G. Vodafone have announced that, due to their winning a third of the crucial “low frequency” spectrum (800 MHz), their signal will travel further into customers homes and offices than any other 4G signal available at present.
Vodafone bid a total of £791 million in the auction, the highest of all bidders for ownership of five “chunks” of the spectrum. A statement released by Vodafone today confirmed that the network have acquired; 2 x 800 MHz Band, 2 x 20 in the 2.6 GHz category as well as an additional 25 MHz of “unpaired” spectrum in the 2.6 GHZ category. Vodafone now own the largest proportion of the 4G network which will mean their signal is stronger and more wide spread than the current EE 4G coverage.
The initial license is for 20 years and is worth £790 million, Vodafone UK chief executive, Guy Laurence said, “We have more than doubled our spectrum holdings in the past 12-months thanks to spectrum acquired at auction and outside the auction process. Doubling our capacity allows us to continue our growth with significant headroom to increase our current base of over 8m customers.”
Regulators “Ofcom” raised £2.4 billion from the auction, much to the disappointment of chancellor George Osbourne who had hoped for closer to £3.5 billion. Ofcom however believe the auction to have achieved its fundamental goal of promoting strong competition in the 4G market.
Ofcom CEO, Ed Richards commented, “This is a positive outcome for competition in the UK, which will lead to faster and more widespread mobile broadband, and substantial benefits for consumers and businesses across the country. We are confident that the UK will be among the most competitive markets in the world for 4G services.