4G smartphone

Ofcom has announced the winners of the UK's 4G LTE mobile spectrum auction.

The telecoms regulator has confirmed that Everything Everywhere (EE), Three, Vodafone, Telefonica (O2) and Niche Spectrum Ventures Ltd (a subsidiary of BT) have all won 4G spectrum. However, the auction didn't raise as much money as expected.

Although the total made from the auction, £2.3bn, is more than the reserve of £1.3bn, it falls quite short of the government's estimate of £3.5bn. The 4G auction raised far less than the 3G auction in 200 which managed £22bn.

Ed Richards, Chief Executive of Ofcom, said: "This is a positive outcome for competition in the UK, which will lead to faster and more widespread mobile broadband, and substantial benefits for consumers and businesses across the country. We are confident that the UK will be among the most competitive markets in the world for 4G services."

Ofcom estimates that 4G services will bring £20bn of benefits to the UK over the next ten years. Almost the entire UK population will be able to access 4G mobile services by the end of 2017, according to the firm.

"4G coverage will extend far beyond that of existing 3G services, covering 98% of the UK population indoors – and even more when outdoors – which is good news for parts of the country currently under-served by mobile broadband." added Richards.

O2's winning spectrum has a 'coverage obligation' attached to it meaning it is obliged to provide a mobile broadband service for indoor reception to at least 98 percent of the UK population (99 percent outdoors) and at least 95 percent of the population of each of the UK nations by the end of 2017 at the latest.

See: What is 4G? A complete guide to 4G.

4G auction: what happens now?

The main auction has ended but the 'assignment stage' will take place shortly. This is where winning bidders are assigned specific bands of frequency within their chosen spectrum.

Following this, bidders must pay their licence fees before Ofcom grant licences. "Operators will then be able to start rolling out their networks, with consumer services expected in spring or early summer 2013." said Ofcom.

Ofcom confirmed it will be conducting research and testing on all of the 4G networks this December. The results designed to help consumers understand the performance benefits will be published in spring 2014.

Winning bidder

Spectrum won

Base price

Everything Everywhere Ltd

2 x 5 MHz of 800 MHz and
2 x 35 MHz of 2.6 GHz


Hutchison 3G UK Ltd

2 x 5 MHz of 800 MHz


Niche Spectrum Ventures Ltd (a subsidiary of BT Group plc)

2 x 15 MHz of 2.6 GHz and
1 x 20 MHz of 2.6 GHz (unpaired)


Telefónica UK Ltd

2 x 10 MHz of 800 MHz
(coverage obligation lot)


Vodafone Ltd

2 x 10 MHz of 800 MHz,
2 x 20 MHz of 2.6 GHz and
1 x 25 MHz of 2.6 GHz (unpaired)