4G bid timetable revealed

December start date for 4G applications

Ofcom have released a timetable for the UK's long-awaited 4G auction, which reveals that bidding will begin in the new year.

Before then, mobile companies must apply for the right to bid on highly-prized mobile airwaves. They can do this from 11 December, and will then be told if they have been chosen to enter the auction, which will be held in January.

Successful bidders will be notified in February and March, as well as finding out exactly how much their investment will cost. It is hoped that all new services will be up and running at some stage in May and June.

This process is set to be very competitive, with Ofcom placing a reserve of £1.3 billion on the whole number of airwaves being sold. 4G will be seen as a vital service by many mobile providers, as it reportedly offers an internet service ten times faster than that of 3G.

Currently, only EE offers a 4G service in the UK after jumping ahead of rivals Vodafone, O2 and Three by reusing old 2G airwaves. However, this move has since come under fire from customers, who have branded the launch 'rushed' after encountering problems with connection.

5G wheels already in motion

Even before the 4G issue is resolved, Ofcom is already planning for the auction of 5G airwaves, which it is predicted will speed up mobile internet usage even further than 4G.

This is widely regarded as a necessary move as an increased demand for smartphones places even more strain on mobile networks. However, it is also set to stir up even more controversy among the main providers as 4G has done.

The current process was dogged by almost constant threats of legal action from Vodafone, O2, EE and Three, and while they appear to have reached an amicable agreement on the 4G acquisition process it is feared that the same issues will arise once 5G edges closer.

Adrian Mursec, senior developer at theEword, said: "Many users will be thankful that 4G now appears a step closer to becoming reality, and will hope that the slightly longer process will help iron out avoid any of the issues suffered by EE. Of course, this industry is always looking forward, so as soon as the 4G situation is resolved we can expect to hear a lot more about 5G."