Mobile in 2013: Let the 4G battle commence

By Sooraj Shah
21 Dec 2012 View Comments
Mobile mast

In the mobile space in 2013 4G is expected to dominate the headlines once again. If the 4G auction goes ahead as planned then the bidding for spectrum will begin in January and could take a number of weeks.

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Between the months of February and March, bidders are to be informed of what they have won and its cost, with licence fees paid and licences granted.

"That should get wrapped up within the first quarter of the year, and then towards the second quarter of 2013 new 4G services will be launched. We expect new 4G services to go live from a range of providers in May or June," an Ofcom spokesman said.

The likes of O2, Vodafone and Three are expected to take part in the auction, while Virgin Media and Sky have ruled themselves out. In July, BT indicated to Computing that it could be interested in acquiring spectrum.

"Ofcom's auction proposals are sufficiently flexible to cover our potential interests and we will continue to consider carefully as to whether we will participate in the award process," the telecoms giant said in a statement.

But Ovum analyst Matthew Howett believes that it is unlikely that BT, or indeed another surprise entrant, will bid for any spectrum.

"The way the auction has been structured makes it hard for a new entrant to walk away with any meaningful amount of spectrum. There is a block of spectrum available at 2.6GHz, which could attract a new entrant, but if they did win that spectrum they would only be able to launch a service on a regional basis for instance as there wouldn't be enough spectrum for a nationwide service, unless it signed a national roaming deal with another operator," Howett said.

Meanwhile, Three, which has already bought some of the 1800MHz spectrum from EE, is likely to launch its 4G service at some point in 2013 but has to await EE's clearance to launch the 1800MHz band 4G services. It is also likely to bid at the 4G auction - most likely for the lower value 800MHz spectrum to improve the in-building coverage and enable it to rollout the services to more rural areas.

By the end of 2013, EE hopes to have rolled out its 4G services to 70 per cent of the UK population.

"We're investing £1.4bn a day on upgrading and enhancing our existing 2G and 3G network, as well as on launching 4G for Britain," an EE spokesman told Computing.

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