Ofcom plans UK 4G spectrum auction

As one from the land of Blighty, I'm happy to say 4G coverage is pretty poor -- but will Ofcom's new spectrum auction push forward network improvements?
Written by Charlie Osborne, Contributing Writer
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UK communications regulator Ofcom plans to push ahead with a spectrum action in the 2.3 GHz and 3.4 GHz bands, giving the hope of better 4G coverage in the future to British mobile users.

On Thursday, Ofcom requested potential bidders at the auction to come forward and comment on proposals for the upcoming sale, which is expected to take place in late 2015 or early 2016.

The 2.3GHz band is used to support mobile data in 10 countries outside Europe, including China, India and Australia, and is compatible with handsets including Apple's iPhone 5 and 6, the HTC Desire range and Samsung Galaxy models.

The 3.4GHz band is used for 4G networks in six countries, including the United Kingdom, Canada and Spain.

Ofcom intends to sell of a total of 190 MHz in the two bands -- which is roughly equivalent to 75 percent of the airwaves released by Ofcom through the 4G auction in 2013. The spectrum on offer is currently being used by the UK's Ministry of Defence (MOD), and is being made available to cater for growing consumer demand in mobile data.

While Ofcom says that additional spectrum is required for public use and to keep the UK's wireless infrastructure up to a modern standard, the regulator has set safeguards in place to make sure the auction is "fair and transparent," and spectrum will be "awarded to those who can put it to the most efficient use and in the best interests of consumers." As a result, the spectrum is being auctioned off in 38 lots of 5MHz, and operators are only allowed to hold up to 37 percent of a spectrum band.

Philip Marnick, Ofcom's Spectrum Group Director, commented:

"Today marks an important step in ensuring that the UK has sufficient spectrum to support our wireless economy.

It comes in response to the fast pace of change and innovation taking place in the communications sector, which is placing increased demands on how spectrum is used by all industries. One important way of meeting this demand is making new spectrum available and its use as flexible as possible."

The consultation period will end on 23 January 2015.

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