Ofcom announces details for 2015 4G auction

BT and Three's acquisitions of EE and O2 mean Ofcom will hold back some spectrum for use with 4G services

Ofcom has released details of its plans to release more spectrum for 4G services, but its availablility would be limited in order to future-proof networks against impending mergers. The regulator has asked potential bidders how they think it should release the 2.3 GHz and 3.4 GHz spectrum bands, which are currently being used by the government for communications.

Although the regulator said it was not its responsibility to decide whether BT could merge with EE or if Three's purchase of O2 would restrict competition in the UK, it said it did need to ensure spectrum is being used optimally.

Ofcom said: "[Our] objective is to award the frequencies in a way that will allow consumers to enjoy greater access to high-capacity mobile internet without undue delay.

"Today's consultation invites potential bidders to comment on an option where Ofcom would award most of the newly available spectrum later this year, or early in 2016. The remaining frequencies would be held back for award at a later date."

It said the approach was preferable to awarding all parts of the spectrum in one go or delaying the whole auction.

"Spectrum held back from the award could, for example, help us to address concerns about overly concentrated holdings, if this proved necessary at a later date," Ofcom added.

"It may be much less appropriate for us to use a spectrum cap mechanism to address competition concerns in a scenario where the market and consequently spectrum holdings may change at short notice."

Ofcom said licences for the released spectrum would be awarded on an indefinite term, with the initial period lasting 20-years before fees would again be due. The regulator's consultation with potential bidders will close on 26 June, shortly after which it will release its findings to the public.

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