Ofcom will auction off the new airwaves in late 2012 for an expected figure of £3bn, backtracking on previous agreements that sections of the bandwidth would be reserved for network providers Everything Everywhere and Three.
Neither of these companies currently owns any spectrum below 1GHz, which is cheaper to operate as radio waves are transmitted over longer ranges and therefore require less structural work.
The 4G network will operate on the 800MHz spectrum when analogue televisions, which currently employ this bandwidth, become redundant this year.
A spokesperson for Everything Everywhere said the firm was disappointed at the communication regulator’s move: “Ofcom is missing a huge opportunity for the UK to address the imbalance in sub 1GHz spectrum holdings, which has damaged consumer interests for the last 20 years – and is a situation which is now threatening to continue.”
Everything Everywhere, led by new chief executive Olaf Swantee (pictured), has been ordered to sell a large chunk of its 1800MHz spectrum due to competition regulations since it merged major network providers Orange and T-Mobile.
Ofcom plans to reserve a section of the new airwaves for a smaller fourth network provider.
This bandwidth could be reassigned to Three, which accounts for less than 10 per cent of UK mobile users.
Vodafone and O2, the second and third biggest networks in Britain, have both voiced approval for Ofcom’s objectives.