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Ofcom confirms 4G spectrum auction

The telecoms regulator will auction crucial spectrum this summer, which could be allocated to WiMax or the long-term evolution of 3G
Written by David Meyer, Contributor

Ofcom has confirmed the UK's single largest-ever release of spectrum will take place this summer via auction.

The 205MHz of spectrum is in the 2010-2025MHz and 2500-2690MHz bands — commonly known as the 2.6GHz spectrum — and is ideally suited for mobile broadband. The main question to be resolved in the technology- and service-neutral auction is that of which mobile broadband technology will win out. The two main contenders are mobile WiMax and the long-term evolution (LTE) of 3G.

According to Philip Rutnam, Ofcom's partner in charge of spectrum policy, the spectrum release "will create opportunities for fresh innovation, new services and competition for the benefit of consumers in the UK."

Ofcom's 2.6GHz auction forms parts of a wider programme to "release around 400MHz of prime spectrum to the market over the next few years", the regulator said on Friday.

Although WiMax has gained a footprint in some parts of the world — particularly those where wired telecoms infrastructure is scarce — it seems unlikely that the technology will dominate over LTE in areas such as Western Europe, where investment in 3G infrastructure has been high.

Some WiMax offerings are available in the UK, largely rolled out by the company Freedom4, which used to be Pipex Wireless. And in February, a Motorola executive told ZDNet.co.uk that an unidentified new mobile WiMax operator was preparing to enter the UK market through Ofcom's auction.

Mobile broadband is rapidly gaining popularity. Some in the industry expect the technology to overtake fixed-line broadband connectivity by 2012, and be handling 70 to 90 percent of the world's internet traffic in 2015.

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