Ofcom are hoping to have licenses established for the 800MHz and 2.6GHz Spectrum by Q2 2012 according to Ed Richards (Ofcom Chief Executive), allowing 4G networks to be up and running by early 2014, over 3 years behind some other European cities. The process, to be run more quickly than the 3G auctions, should see details of the auction and regulations announced next year with bids invited in Q1 2012.
The spectrum in question will be used for LTE (Long Term Evolution) deployments which offer faster mobile broadband services and are often termed next-generation mobile broadband. Current 3.5G technologies such as HSPA (high speed packet access) can support theoretical maximum speeds of around 14Mbps whilst LTE will offer 100Mbps and may be a real competitor to fixed-line access.
The government must look to the future with the legislation to be drawn up for this and ensure the spectrum can be used for upgrades to LTE as well as current technology that is rolling out. If 2014 is the likely go-live date then we may be able to skip the first generation of LTE and jump straight to LTE Advanced which offers true 4G services with peak data rates of 1Gbps.