British communications regulator Ofcom has unveiled details of an auction of radio frequency spectrum to be used for next generation 4G mobile phone services.
The spectrum to be sold off is becoming free due to the 'digital switchover' migration of analog television to more spectrum efficient digital services.
In 2000, the government auction of 3G spectrum raised £22 billion. The massive amount paid by the leading operators hit the winners hard as they struggled to earn enough back from 3G services while also investing in their 3G networks.
The network spectrum to be auctioned next year is almost twice as much spectrum but it's not expected to attract to raise the same amount due in equal parts to economic prudence and the market leaders Vodafone and O2 still owning large amounts of spectrum.
Part of the plans include measures to encourage broadband coverage to 95% of the population throughout the UK. However 4G services are not expected to arrive in much of the country until 2014, much later than many other countries.
Network operators Everything Everywhere and 3 are also set to mount a legal challenge with the telcos upset that incumbent operators O2 and Vodaphone have exclusive access to the much desired low-frequency 800MHz band and have been allowed to reuse the spectrum for 4G.
According to a Guardian report, Ofcom chief Ed Richards denied that the UK mobile broadband industry amounted to "laggards" but warned that further delays due to litigation would risk falling "further behind."
"What I hope doesn't happen is that the debate spills over into litigation because that will delay the award and then there is only one loser, the British consumer," he said.