We hope that the new Culture Secretary Maria Miller did not have to bash too many heads together to get this result, but we can report that the Ofcom 4G auctions for the 800 MHz and 2600 MHz spectrum is now several months closer to delivering an actual service than this morning.
The Ofcom press release on the news indicates that they now expect the auction to begin at the end of the year, with actual service delivery on the auctioned spectrum in the first half of 2013. In the meantime Everything Everywhere will be the sole UK 4G LTE provider, though as yet no date has been announced for when people will be able to actually order and utilise the service.
"Delivering 4G quickly is a key part of our economic growth strategy. I am grateful to the mobile operators for their co-operation in bringing forward vital 4G services.
By speeding up the delivery of 4G in the UK, the Government is creating enormous opportunities. It is up to the operators to now deliver the services that businesses and consumers expect and we are confident they will succeed."Culture Secretary, Maria Miller
Some of the reasons that the auction cannot happen earlier is that even if it did happen tomorrow, there is still lots of work to take place and clear TV transmitters that are operating in the 800 MHz band. Work at two major transmitter sites has been brought forward to speed up the roll-out, with sites that affect around 10 million people shutting down in April and May 2013.
The 4G roll-out has a reserve of £1.4bn, which if the bidders do not reach will see the auction collapsing, but the DCMS is hoping to exceed this and raise perhaps £3bn from the auction. Oddly who ever picks the pictures for a DCMS release, has used on old iPhone that does not work with 4G and is connected to a North American cell provider. The iPhone 5 while 4G capable will only operate on the 1800 MHz frequency, though plenty of other providers are releasing 4G capable handsets that will operate on the 800 MHz and 2600 MHz bands.
The coverage obligations as part of the auction require the operators to provide indoor coverage of 4G mobile broadband to 98% of people in villages, towns and cities across the UK, and outdoor coverage should exceed 99% of the people. Hopefully this is not careful political wording to state 'villages, towns and cities' as there are a good number of people who live outside what most of the population would consider a village.