Seven bidders face off for 4G mobile auction

SEVEN firms are bidding in an auction of the UK’s 4G airwaves that will allow them to run significantly faster mobile internet services while boosting the government’s coffers.

Ofcom yesterday announced the participants for January’s auction. The UK’s four mobile operators – EE, O2, Vodafone and Three – are expected to grab the lion’s share of the spectrum on offer.

The other three participants are BT, Hong Kong’s PCCW, and the managed telecoms network firm MLL.

They will be bidding at two spectrum frequencies: the more-desirable 800MHz band, appropriate for widespread mobile networks, and the 2.6GHz band for shorter-range


The well-resourced EE, Vodafone and O2 are expected to snap up the three 800MHz slots, which will let them offer high-speed networks to most of the UK’s population.

A fourth operator – likely to be Three – is guaranteed some of the 2.6GHz spectrum. This would boost speeds on Three’s network in certain areas. The other bidders will look to boost their wireless broadband offerings with slots of 2.6GHz.

Ofcom says 4G networks will achieve speeds up to 10 times as fast as 3G ones, allowing instant loading of web pages.

The auction – which chancellor George Osborne expects will raise £3.5bn – will go ahead in January. The 800 MHz networks will go live in May or June, with the 2.6GHz spectrum freed up over the next 12 months.