Ofcom welcomes applications for 4G auction

11 December 2012

Ofcom today welcomed applications to take part in the 4G auction – the largest ever mobile spectrum auction in the UK.

The window for applying to take part opened at 10:00 today, with potential bidders having until 16:00 today to submit their application along with an initial deposit of £100,000.

Ed Richards, Ofcom Chief Executive, said: “We have fired the starting gun on the 4G auction process. In the past year alone, mobile internet usage has doubled. The 4G auction will release crucial capacity to support future growth, helping to boost UK productivity, innovation and drive significant improvements to mobile broadband availability across the UK."

Qualification stage

All applications will be reviewed by Ofcom to check that the applicants are qualified to take part in the auction. This will involve carrying out a range of checks, from ensuring the information submitted is correct through to ensuring that there is no overlap between applications, which could distort the auction.

Ofcom plans to announce the names of all successful applicants before the end of the year or early in the New Year. Bidding will then start in January 2013 and is likely to take place over a number of weeks before the final result of the auction is known.

Ofcom expects superfast 4G mobile services to be available to consumers from a range of different mobile phone companies later in the year.

Auction lots

Bidders will be competing for spectrum in two separate bands – 800 MHz and 2.6 GHz. The lower frequency 800 MHz band is part of the ‘digital dividend’ freed up when analogue terrestrial TV was switched off, which is ideal for widespread mobile coverage.

The higher frequency 2.6 GHz band is ideal for delivering the capacity needed to deliver faster speeds to large numbers of consumers in towns and cities across the UK. These two bands add up to 250 MHz of additional mobile spectrum, compared to 333 MHz in use today. Both bands are being packaged into smaller lots so that they can be acquired by multiple operators.

This combination of low and high frequency spectrum creates the potential for 4G mobile broadband services to be widely available across the UK, while offering capacity to cope with significant demand in urban centres.

What to expect from 4G

4G services should make it much quicker to surf the web on mobiles – speeds can be nearer to what is currently experienced with home broadband.

Because of this, 4G is ideally suited for high-bandwidth data services such as streaming high-quality video, watching live TV and downloading large files.

For the typical user, download speeds of initial 4G networks could be around 5-7 times those for existing 3G networks. This means a music album taking 20 minutes to download on a 3G phone and just over three minutes on 4G. This is based on existing 3G speeds being 1 Mbit/s on average and 4G speed being 6 Mbit/s (on average between 5 and 7 times faster).

4G consumer information

For information on the upcoming auction and the consumer benefits that new services will deliver, please visit the Ofcom 4G consumer page.



  1. Existing 4G services: In August 2012, Ofcom approved an application by the mobile phone operator Everything Everywhere (EE) to use its existing 1800 MHz spectrum to deliver 4G services. This decision was taken after conducting a thorough assessment of how competition might be affected. Ofcom concluded that consumers would benefit significantly from gaining early access to 4G services, and that there was no material risk that those benefits would be outweighed by a distortion of competition. EE launched a commercial 4G service in some areas of the UK on 30 October 2012.
  2. The term 4G is generally used to refer to mobile broadband services delivered using the next generation of mobile broadband technologies, including Long Term Evolution (LTE) and WiMAX.
  3. Ofcom is the independent regulator and competition authority for the UK communications industries, with responsibilities across television, radio, telecommunications, wireless communications and postal services.
  4. Ofcom’s principal duty under the Communications Act 2003 is to further the interests of citizens, and the interests of consumers where appropriate by promoting competition. Ofcom is also required to secure the optimal use for wireless telegraphy of the electro-magnetic spectrum.
  5. In holding the auction and putting in place measures to promote competition, Ofcom is meeting specific requirements under the Government’s Wireless Telegraphy Act 2006 (Directions to Ofcom) Order 2010.