Ofcom reveals 4G auction details with £1.3bn reserve

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Services expected to launch in May

Ofcom has laid out the full details of the long-awaited 4G auction, including a £1.3bn reserve and a timeline of events leading up to service launches in May and June next year.

The details mark the end of a protracted series of negotiations between the regulator and mobile companies, which was only recently jump started following the launch of EE's 4G services using its existing spectrum.

According to Ofcom, applications for spectrum licenses in two bands - 800MHz and 2.6GHz - will be accepted on 11 December, with a reserve price for the overall spectrum haul of £1.3bn.

It's a far cry from the £22bn raised for 3G licences, but with obligations to reach 98% of the UK, operators will be keeping an eye on network costs during the bidding.

The entire industry is now focused on the auction itself, with a shared goal of delivering new and improved mobile services for consumers

"Today marks an important shift from preparation to the delivery of the auction, which will see widespread 4G mobile services from a range of providers," said Ed Richards, CEO of Ofcom, the regulator overseeing the auction process. "The entire industry is now focused on the auction itself, with a shared goal of delivering new and improved mobile services for consumers."

According to Ofcom, there's no fixed timescale for the actual bidding stage, which could take "a number of weeks" and will take place over secure internet connections.

Auction timeline:

11 December: The application day - prospective bidders submit their applications to Ofcom with an initial deposit.

Late December: Qualification stage - applications are reviewed to determine who can go on to bid in the auction.

January: The principal stage, when bidding begins. Bids will be placed online over secure internet connections, and could take several weeks.

February/March: The assignment stage - bidders informed what they have won and its cost.

February/March: The grant stage - licence fees are paid and licences granted.

May/June: New 4G services are launched.

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