The UK telecoms regulator has this morning announced which organisations have qualified to bid in the January 2013 auction of 4G (LTE or WiMAX) superfast Mobile Broadband radio spectrum (800MHz and 2.6GHz) and there are a few unfamiliar faces.
Each of the applicants were asked to submit their application alongside an initial deposit of £100,000 and it will come as little surprise that all of the main Mobile Network Operators (MNO) have chosen to engage with the process.
Ed Richards, Ofcoms Chief Executive, said:
“The 4G auction will be a competitive process that will dictate the shape of the UK mobile phone market for the next decade and beyond. New 4G services will stimulate investment, growth and innovation in the UK and deliver significant benefits to consumers in terms of better, faster and more reliable mobile broadband connections.”
The Qualifying Organisations
* Everything Everywhere Limited (UK) [EE]
* HKT (UK) Company Limited (a subsidiary of PCCW Limited) [UK Broadband]
* Hutchison 3G UK Limited [Three UK]
* MLL Telecom Ltd
* Niche Spectrum Ventures Limited (a subsidiary of BT Group plc)
* Telefónica UK Limited [O2]
* Vodafone Limited
Most of those listed were expected, although the addition of business ISP MLL Telecom is an interesting one. The ISP recently won a contract worth £800,000 to extend the on-going supply and support of ultra-fast wireless broadband services around the Gateshead Metropolitan Borough Council area for up to a further four years (here).
The auction, which begins next month, is expected to “take a number of weeks” to complete and the bidders will be informed about whether or not they have won during February or March 2013. The first 800MHz and 2.6GHz based 4G spectrum will then be released for commercial use during late spring (May or June 2013).
The regulator has also launched a new 4G consumer page, which provides information on the upcoming auction and the perhaps optimistic consumer benefits that any related services will deliver. Further details about the auction rules and timetable can be found here.
The reserve price for the related spectrum comes to a “combined total” of £1.3 billion, although industry estimates suggests that the auction will rake in anything from £4bn to £6bn, which is incidentally well below the £22bn that the dramatically overpriced 3G auction delivered.
It’s hoped that the auction will help extend the reach of mobile phone networks to cover “at least” 98% of UK people by the end of 2017.