Setback for superfast mobile web: Govt. delays 4G auctions


In a blow for high-speed mobile web access, the UK Government has announced that its much-anticipated 4G spectrum auction will not be held until the second quarter of 2012 at the earliest. 4G offers high-speed broadband to mobile devices. A recent trial in South Newquay using LTE (a type of 4G mobile network) is capable of achieving download speeds of 100Mbps for mobile connections and faster speeds for fixed connections.



The auction, originally planned for the first quarter of 2012, has been put back due to ‘a number of technical and competition issues around the sale’.

A spokesman for telecoms watchdog Ofcom said: "We are still aiming for the first half of next year. However, we have always maintained it is an ambitious timescale."

The regulator was originally expected to publish the terms of the auction this month, but the document will not now be ready until November.

The spokesman added: "This is a complex area, involving a large number of technical and competition issues that we need to consider and resolve before finalising proposals. For example, a very high proportion of households in the UK rely on Digital Terrestrial TV - Freeview - which needs to be relocated before 4G can be rolled out.”

The auction has benn hampered by a number of issues, including a legal challenge from 02 earlier this year, the auction deadline has been extended by up to three months.

An Ofcom spokesperson denied that O2 had thrown a spanner in the works by claiming the proposed spectrum floors of the auction were illegal under EU law. "Ofcom has been very explicit in its aim to begin the 4G auction as soon as is practicable and this remains our objective. This is a complex area, involving a large number of technical and competition issues that we need to consider and resolve before finalising proposals," he said.

O2 said there are elements of the initial proposals that it supports and others where it believes Ofcom needs to simplify. "This is still part of the consultation process and we are currently waiting for Ofcom's views on the number of responses it received earlier this year. At this stage we see no reason why a successful auction cannot be delivered next year as planned," the company said.

Ofcom's spokesman pointed out the timing of the spectrum sale is a moot point as mobile operators will not be able to start rolling out 4G networks until 2013 regardless of when the auction takes place.

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