Next generation spectrum could fetch £3.5 billion, down from £22 billion for 3G, it is claimed.
Bidding for 4G spectrum is now officially underway in the UK, with mobile operators wishing to take part invited to submit their applications yesterday.
Applicants had until 4pm yesterday to apply to bid and had to pay £100,000 deposit as a statement of intent.
Applications were made during a six hour window, with all submissions to be reviewed by telecoms watchdog Ofcom.
The regulator will assess whether the bidders are qualified to take part in the auction.
In the past year alone, mobile internet usage has doubled.
The check will involve establishing whether submitted information is correct through to ensuring no overlap between applications.
Ofcom will announce the names of successful applicants before the end of this year or early 2013 at the latest.
Shortly afterwards, bidding will begin in earnest, and the process is likely to take weeks to complete.
The firms will be bidding for spectrum available in two separate bands - 800 MHz and 2.6 GHz.
The 800MHz band was freed up when the analogue television spectrum was finally switched off this year. This part of the spectrum is particularly suited to wide ranging mobile coverage.
The 2.6GHz frequency range will be used to rollout extra mobile capacity in urban areas with higher population densities.
The 250MHz of additional mobile spectrum is being packaged into small lots to ensure that multiple operators can acquire spectrum.
"This combination of low and high frequency spectrum creates the potential for 4G mobile broadband services to be widely available across the UK, while offering capacity to cope with significant demand in urban centres," said Ofcom in a statement.
"4G services should make it much quicker to surf the web on mobiles - speeds can be nearer to what is currently experienced with home broadband."
Ed Richards, Ofcom chief executive, said: “In the past year alone, mobile internet usage has doubled.
"The 4G auction will release crucial capacity to support future growth, helping to boost UK productivity, innovation and drive significant improvements to mobile broadband availability across the UK," Richards added.