Ofcom has unveiled full details of the long-awaited 4G auction, setting a date of December 11 and a reserve of £1.3bn.
New 4G services from a variety of mobile operators are expected to go live in May and June of 2013, Ofcom confirmed.
The date in early December is when prospective bidders have to submit their proposals. Later in the month Ofcom will decide which bidders will be allowed to proceed to the auction.
The auction itself could take a number of weeks, Ofcom says. Successful bidders will then be announced around February and March of 2012.
"Today marks an important shift from preparation to the delivery of the auction, which will see widespread 4G mobile services from a range of providers," said Ed Richards, Ofcom chief executive.
"The entire industry is now focused on the auction itself, with a shared goal of delivering new and improved mobile services for consumers," he added.
EE, the joint venture between T-Mobile and Orange has been given a head start on 4G access in the UK, with its network going live at the beginning of November. The decision to grant EE exclusivity on 4G coverage sparked a furious response from its competitors, who will no doubt be please to finally get their own 4G operations up and running.
Having 4G mobile access across the UK will boost the economy by £75bn, as well as create or safeguard 125,000 jobs, according to figures from Capital Economics.
4G is expected to provide mobile users with internet speeds that are much faster than 3G and will be closer to the speeds users get with fixed-line broadband at home.
The Ofcom auction timeline in full:
11 December: The application day
Prospective bidders submit their applications to Ofcom together with an initial deposit.
December: Qualification stage
Applications are reviewed to determine who can go on to bid in the auction.
January: The principal stage
Bidding begins. This could take a number of weeks. Bids will be placed online over secure internet connections, using software that has been developed specifically for the auction.
February/March: The assignment stage
Bidders informed what they have won and its cost.
February/March: The grant stage
Licence fees are paid and licences granted.
May/June: New 4G services launched
New 4G services expected to go live from a range of providers.
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