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Reasons to be cheerful about the 4G auction

Friday, February 22nd 2013 by Paul France
Why we should be feeling positive about the 4G spectrum auction
Despite receiving some pretty negative press coverage, the 4G auction looks to have been positive for consumers.

There's no doubting that the big news affecting the broadband industry this week has been the announcement of the winning bidders in the UK's much-vaunted 4G auction.

Operators have been busily battling it out over the past few weeks to acquire the airwaves they need to support the rollout of super-fast mobile broadband services over the coming months. The new spectrum has been provided from the deactivation of analogue TV networks in the nationwide digital switchover.

Taking a look at the results, it appears as if the auction will prove pretty positive for consumers. Each bidder secured a pretty healthy chunk of spectrum, which should make for strong competition in the market and drive down the current prices charged by EE - described by many critics as prohibitively high (it was interesting to note earlier this month that EE said early adopters of 4G are spending around ten per cent more than customers on regular tariffs).

Now that the auction has been more or less wrapped up (apart from a final stage to determine where in the 800MHz and 2.6GHz bands each winning bidder's new spectrum will be located), operators can look to get on with rolling out 4G networks. O2 and Vodafone will begin doing so around June and 3 Mobile will follow suit around October, while EE has already started its 4G deployment and is aiming to achieve 55 per cent coverage by this June.

As far as we're concerned, the 4G auction and the forthcoming launch of super-fast mobile broadband networks to rival that of EE are a massive boost for consumers at a time when demand for ever-faster mobile data is at an all-time high.

However, you could be forgiven for thinking that the whole process was an unmitigated disaster after reading media coverage of the sale, which focused almost exclusively on the fact that it raised £2.3 billion - £1.2 billion shy of the estimated proceeds that had already been factored into the government's budget.

While the coalition has clearly made a pretty basic error in pre-guessing the results of an auction, it's time for us to be a bit more positive and look forward to a time of widespread 4G coverage.

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