All the Major network providers have secured bandwidth to create 4G networks across the UK following Ofcom’s 4G spectrum auction. However, the total failed to reach the government’s expected price.
The biggest spender was Vodafone, paying a total of £790 million for multiple bands on the 800MHz and 2.6GHz frequencies. This was despite company CEO Vittorio Colao saying 4G was just for “freaks”. “I have not got reports of customers flying away to [rival networks for] 4G,” Colao told The Guardian following his company’s financial statement. “The type of individuals who are going for [4G]
EE was the second highest bidder, despite its existing 4G network giving it a five-month advantage over its rivals. The company secured its position as the UK’s biggest 4G network, with around 40 per cent of the spectrum, by spending £588 million on multiple frequencies across the 800MHz and 2.6GHz bands. CEO Olaf Swantee said he was “extremely pleased” with the auction results.
Three bid £225 million for two separate bands on the 800MHz frequency. This frequency was freed up during the digital switchover, and should let networks force out wider-ranging coverage to less populated areas. The company won’t be charging customers any extra for 4G connectivity, with no need for an additional contract or a new number or SIM card, as long as their handset is 4G-compatible.
“As we add the next wave of technology to our Ultrafast network, we have listened to our consumers and thought long and hard about the right way to do it, ” said 3′s UK ceo Dave Dyson. “We don’t want to restrict Ultrafast services to a select few based on a premium price and we’ve decided our customers will get this service as standard.”
The 02 network submitted a £550 million bid for the 800MHz frequency that included a coverage obligation to provide indoor reception to 90 per cent of the UK’s population by 2017. Company Chief Executive Ronan Dunne said that “it is our intention to go beyond what has already been offered in the market and give our customers a unique and exclusive range of digital experiences”. Quite what that indicates won’t become clear until the bids are finalised.
Perhaps the biggest surprise was BT, which bid £186 million for several 2.6GHz groups despite not having a mobile network. Ian Livingston, BT’s CEO, said: “We do not intend to build a national mobile network. Instead, this spectrum will enhance our existing strategy of delivering a range of services using fixed and wireless broadband.”
The auction generated £2.34 billion for the Treasury, well short of the government’s £3.5 billion estimate. It’s also a massively reduced figure compared with the 3G auction in 2000, which generated £22.5 billion for the UK.