U.K. regulator Ofcom kicked off the 4G auction on Tuesday, accepting applications from potential bidders, along with a £100,000 (US$161,000) entry fee. The deadline to apply was 4:00 p.m. GMT. It marks the start of the bidding process that will begin in ernest in January 2013.
But we won’t know who has applied to bid for spectrum until Ofcom reviews the applications and publishes the list of those who qualified by the end of this year or early next year, says Light Reading. Up for grabs is a total of 250MHz of spectrum in the 800MHz and 2.6MHz frequency bands, compared to 333 MHz in use today.
Currently, only Everything Everywhere offers LTE service in the U.K., using their refarmed 1800 MHz band. Competing mobile operators Telefónica UK (O2), Vodafone UK and 3 will be able to start playing catch-up with rival Everything Everywhere.
The UK has decided to break the 190 MHz-wide band of 2.6 GHz frequencies into two groups, 140 MHz of paired frequencies and 70 MHz of unpaired.
Critics might argue that the UK has acquiesced to big carriers, “wasting” frequencies for frequency division — when the world has clearly moved from symmetrical voice to asymmetrical data.
United Kingdom has a total of 80 million subscribers, with a 130.55% penetration rate. Mobile operators in the UK include:
- Everything Everywhere: 27.2 million subs, owned by France Télécom aka Orange (50%) and Deutsche Telekom (50%).
- O2: 22.3 million subs, owned by Telefónica, a Spanish broadband and telecommunications provider
- Vodafone: 19.2 million subs, owned by Vodafone, headquartered in London.
- 3: 8.2 million subs, owned by Hong Kong-based Hutchison Whampoa
A 50-50 venture of Vodafone and Telefónica will encompass a combined 18,500 cell tower masts, an increase of roughly 40 percent for each operator, for LTE service.
Telefónica already shares its network with Vodafone in Spain and with T-Mobile in the Czech Republic.
While the existing four operators may emerge from the auction with new 4G spectrum, the process is certainly open to a newcomer, says Light Reading.
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