UK to auction mobile spectrum by end of 2011

The UK government has confirmed today that it has given the green light for a mobile spectrum auction by the end of 2011, bringing to an end a three year long wait for a decision.

The Tory government wants telecommunications regulator Ofcom, made infamous for its drafted proposals for the Digital Economy Act, to preside over the auction which includes the 800 megahertz and 2,600MHz frequencies for delivering high speed mobile broadband.

“We want the UK market to remain at the fore of delivering services like the iPad and smart phones but they need the networks to continue to improve and increase services,” said Communications Minister Ed Vaizey.

He added that the new plans will allow the mobile industry access to the 21st century infrastructure it needs to deliver UK consumers better and faster mobile broadband coverage. About time, says everyone else.

This opens the doors for the two frequencies, previously used for analogue TV and GSM mobile networks, to be used for 3G networks, giving the UK a much-needed boost in that field. To encourage employment of the frequencies for 3G Ofcom is to make all 3G licences indefinite and will drop annual fees to be more in line with current market values.

It is not yet clear just how much the spectra may go for, but if other auctions around the world are anything to go by, such as Germany’s netting of many billion for several frequencies, the UK government may be filling up its coffers again after emptying them over the last few years.