Ofcom, the UK’s regulator for the telecommunications industry, issued an update on its plans for the auctioning off of the 800 MHz and 2.6 GHz spectrum bands. These are the frequencies that will be used for the delivery of 4G services.
There has already been one consultation on the auction of the frequencies but based on the responses received, Ofcom has decided to carry out an additional second consultation at the end of 2011 which will run for around 8 weeks. The outcome of the consultation and auction proposals will be published in the summer of 2012, with a delayed frequency auction expected in Q4 2012. More likely Q1 2013, based on their track record.
Ofcom think that this delay to the auction is quite acceptable because the frequencies involved won’t be available until 2013. The last region to turn off the analogue TV signal will be Northern Ireland on 24 October 2012, freeing up the 800 MHz spectrum. The digital switchover programme was announced in 2005 and started in 2008, moving by region until 2012. I don’t know what it takes to achieve this technically, but it seems rather slow. It’s not as if the UK is a big country.
Looking back historically, Ofcom awarded the 3G spectrum in 2000. Mobile telecoms company Three was the first to offer 3G services in 2003, so it took 3 years to move from award of spectrum to service availability. I’m really hoping the that telecos can move a bit faster than they did with 3G but frankly I’m not holding my breath. The whole digital TV changeover and 4G auction has been a farce here in the UK with the US and other parts of Europe well ahead. I won’t be surprised if us Brits are still waiting for 4G in 2015.