After more than 50 rounds of bidding, 4G spectrum has been won by Everything Everywhere, Hutchison 3G UK, Niche Spectrum Ventures Ltd (a subsidiary of BT Group plc), Telefónica UK Ltd and Vodafone Ltd. This spectrum, sometimes known as LTE, is suitable for rolling out new super fast mobile broadband services to consumers and to small and large businesses across the UK.
Although the auction has been completed, it hasn't all been a total success as it was £1 billion short if the government’s estimate of £3.5 billion as announced in the Autumn of 2012. There is a final round of bidding to determine exactly where in each band (800mhz or 2.6ghz) the blocks that have been assigned will reside, although it is very unlikely that this bidding will make a significant dent in the cash shortfall. When you compare this outcome to the 3G auction which raised £22.5 billion in 2000, it really is not that impressive considering that mobile data use is forecast to continue rising until it overtakes voice traffic on the mobile networks.
Ofcom suggests that the networks will start rolling out 4G in the spring and summer 2013. 4G coverage should extend far beyond that of existing 3G services, covering 98% of the UK population indoors and even more when outdoors. This should be good news for parts of the country with limited mobile broadband currently.
By the year 2030 demand for mobile data could be 80 times higher than it is today. To help meet this exponential growth and to stop any capacity crunch, more spectrum is needed in the long term, along with other technologies to make the mobile broadband network more efficient. Ofcom is planning to support the release of further chunks of spectrum to accommodate the rapid growth and for possible future ‘5G’ mobile services.