Between March and May of this year Ofcom consulted on its assessment of likely future competition in mobile markets and proposals for award of the 800MHz and 2.6GHz spectrum bands. A number of substantial and strongly argued responses were received in relation to this consultation.
Ofcom has been reviewing these responses over the summer, and refining its analysis as a result. In light of these responses, and the significance of the decisions that need to be taken - decisions that are likely to shape the future of the mobile sector in the UK for the next decade or more - it has been decided to undertake a further round of consultation on these issues.
Ofcom plans to publish a further consultation document around the end of this year. Stakeholders will be given an appropriate period of time in which to comment on Ofcom's refined analysis and respond to its revised proposals - likely to be at least eight weeks. The aim will then be to make a decision and publish a statement in the summer of 2012. The auction itself would then follow a few months later - perhaps starting in Q4 2012*.
It is important to remember that the 800MHz and 2.6GHz spectrum bands will not be available for new use until 2013 in any case - and will likely not be available in all areas of the UK until later in 2013. Therefore this step is unlikely to have a material impact on the timeline for the availability of new services to consumers. Nevertheless it continues to be Ofcom's aim to award this spectrum as quickly as possible, in a manner that best promotes the interests of citizens and consumers, in line with its statutory duties and the Government's direction to Ofcom.
*Ofcom is obliged by the Wireless Telegraphy Act 2006 to undertake certain procedural steps before holding an auction. These necessarily take a few months to complete.