Everybody's a winner in UK 4G auction

Ofcom has announced the winners of its 4G spectrum auction and it seems like every carrier got its share of the cake. Telefonica (O2), Vodafone, EE, Three and BT subsidiary Niche Spectrum Ventures all won spectrum.

However, the government managed to raise £2.34 billion in the auction, far short of the £3.5 billion estimated in the budget. The 3G auction in 2000 raised £22.5 billion. Vodafone has paid £790 million for a bit of spectrum in 2.6GHz and 800MHz bands, while others paid considerably less.

The low frequency 800MHz band was freed up when analogue TV was switched off and it is ideally suited for widespread mobile coverage. The 2.6GHz band is better at delivering capacity needed for high data speeds, so combining the two has some obvious benefits.

At the moment the UK has just one 4G carrier, EE, which launched its LTE service late last year.

However, it is not doing very well. Ofcom believes things will pick up very soon and by the end of 2017 almost the whole UK population will be covered by 4G mobile services. Whether all consumers will rush to upgrade remains to be seen.

Under the terms of the auction O2 will have to provide indoor reception for at least 98 percent of the population and at least 95 percent of the population of England, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales. No rush though, it needs to meet the targets by 2017.