Since EE officially launched its 4G service in ten UK cities back in October 2012, the other mobile network operators have been desperate for the UK government to finish the bidding competition to see who else gets to run a 4G network. At the same time the UK government was keen to get as many entrants as possible so that it could raise lots of money from the auctioning of the airwaves.
Ofcom, the UK telecommunications regulator, has now released the results. The winners are Everything Everywhere, Hutchison 3G UK (Three), Niche Spectrum Ventures (a BT subsidiary), Telefonica, and Vodafone. EE will use the extra frequencies it got to expand its network. Although EE, a joint venture between T-Mobile and Orange, launched first in the UK it has struggled to attract users. As a result the operator cut its prices in January.
Now that the licenses have been granted the mobile operators can start to deploy their networks. Ofcom anticipates that the eventual 4G coverage will be better than the existing 3G services. Telefónica, which was awarded one of the 800 MHz lots, has an obligation attached to its license to provide a mobile broadband service for indoor reception to at least 98% of the UK population by the end of 2017 at the latest.
For the government the downside was that the auction only raised £2.34bn from which was less than expected and much less than the £22bn raised from the 3G auction in 2000. The highest bidder was Vodafone which bid £791m for fives blocks of the spectrum. A total of 250 MHz of spectrum was auctioned in two separate bands – 800 MHz and 2.6 GHz. According to Ofcom, “this is equivalent to two-thirds of the radio frequencies currently used by wireless devices such as tablets, smartphones and laptops.”
What do you think? Are you looking forward to the new 4G services? Have you tried EE already? Any good?