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Delayed 4G auction is likely to face further challenges from bickering mobile operators.

Ofcom unveils new £5 billion mobile spectrum auction plan

UK communications regulator Ofcom has given the go ahead for the upcoming auction of radio spectrum which will see a 75 per cent increase in the amount of radio spectrum for mobile broadband.

The regulator wants to kick off the bidding before the end of the year in an auction which is expected to raise as much as £5 billion for the state coffers. Much of the spectrum is becoming available due to the switch off of analogue TV and not a moment too soon as surging use of smartphones and tablets place increasing demands on mobile broadband.

Ofcom has also placed some hefty conditions on the auction including the demand that 2Mbps broadband be made available to 98 per cent of the country, Eg. everywhere that can place a regular 2G phone call at the moment. The new proposal is rammed with detail, largely as a result of justifying decisions given the squabbling by UK network operators.

Mobile carriers have already delayed the auction well beyond most of the equivalent spectrum sales in continental Europe and sadly, as expected, no sooner had the latest document been released than Everything Everywhere complained about Ofcom guaranteeing the firm a slice of the valuable 800MHz spectrum.

With luck, commercial gripes and legal challenges will not further delay the vital spectrum sale that will allow 4G mobile services to arrive in the UK. Ofcom pointed out that demand from mobile data is estimated to increase by 500% over the next five years. Until operators know what they own, they can’t even begin to build the networks.

"This is a crucial step in preparing for the most significant spectrum release in the UK for many years. The proposals published today will influence the provision of services to consumers for the next decade and beyond," said Ofcom chief Ed Richards.

"The UK benefits from being one of the most competitive mobile phone markets in Europe. This means that consumers pay less for mobile communications services and have the choice to shop around for packages that suit them best."

Sadly such a competitive environment also makes for gaining consensus from mobile operators something akin to herding cats. Perhaps what we need is a large shaggy dog.

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