Sky rules itself out of 4G auction; Everything Everywhere wants 4G decision

By Sooraj Shah
27 Jul 2012 View Comments
A gavel used at an auction

Digital TV, radio and broadband provider Sky has ruled itself out of bidding at the 4G auction as a potential "fourth operator".

The news comes after BT indicated to Computing yesterday that it would bid for the spectrum that is being reserved by communications regulator Ofcom for an operator other than O2, Vodafone and Everything Everywhere.

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"While we continue to extend our leadership in mobile content, we currently have no plans to offer mobile access beyond our existing public Wi-Fi network," Sky told Computing.

Sky will join Virgin Media, which yesterday distanced itself further from the process by stating that it was "not going to bid for large pieces of the spectrum and not looking to become a mobile operator". However, it did not completely rule out a bid.

Mobile network Three is widely reported to be the favourite to secure the spectrum, particularly as it already functions as a mobile operator and as Ofcom has specifically mentioned the network as part of its 4G auction statement.

The statement has been welcomed by O2, Vodafone and Everything Everywhere (EE), who have have all said that Ofcom's final decision is another step forward for the launch of 4G services.

Meanwhile, EE has urged Ofcom to announce the outcome of the consultation process in which the communications regulator has to decide if EE can use its existing 1800MHz spectrum to rollout 4G services.

The consultation process, which ended on 8 May, was set up by Ofcom after it bowed to pressure from rival networks. They accused EE of seeking an unfair advantage as it would be able to launch 4G services ahead of any of its competitors.

"We are still waiting for feedback from Ofcom regarding the request to provide 4G using our existing 1800MHz spectrum – it is about seven or eight months since we put in the request last year. We hope they make the decision soon," an Everything Everywhere spokesperson told Computing.

In response, an Ofcom spokesperson said: "We have been working on that, the public interest requires a lot of analysis. It will be a matter of weeks or a month but there is not a date that we can commit to."

The communications regulator also confirmed that the 4G auction process is running in parallel, independently of the consultation decision.

EE said that if Ofcom did decide to allow the network to use its 1800MHz spectrum for 4G, 4G services would initially be rolled out on a small scale before the end of the year.

"It would be before the end of the year that 4G services are rolled out, there is no timeline and it also depends on if and when Ofcom give us the green light. Then, we can put everything in place and be more specific about a launch date but right now we are hoping that by end of summer we will have the permission to roll out 4G services," the EE spokesperson said.

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