Companies hoping to secure a portion of the 4G airwaves in next year's spectrum auction have today submitted their bids to Ofcom.
The long-delayed auction, now scheduled for March 2013, will divide up the available spectrum and allow mobile networks to press ahead with plans for UK-wide 4G LTE connectivity.
The UK's biggest mobile operators - O2, Vodafone, EE and Three - may face competition from international rivals, private equity firms and other industries for ownership of the all-important airwaves.
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All interested parties were required to submit proposals by 4pm on Tuesday, alongside a hefty deposit of £100,000, which Ofcom requested to fend off time wasters.
Ofcom, which has been heavily criticised for delaying the auction process, played up the bidding process, claiming to have 'fired the starting gun' on the path to a full 4G roll out.
Fired the starting gun
Ofcom said the list of bidders will not be made public for a few weeks, while Ofcom assesses the suitability of each proposal and decides whether the company moves onto the next stage of the process.
The respective companies are bidding for access to two bands. The 800MHz spectrum freed up by the analogue TV switch-off and the 2.6MHz spectrum, which will likely be used in dense urban areas.
The 4GEE network was able to launch this autumn on the 1800MHz band it converted from 2G to 4G.
"We have fired the starting gun on the 4G auction process," said Ofcom CEO Ed Richards.
"In the past year alone, mobile internet usage has doubled. The 4G auction will release crucial capacity to support future growth, helping to boost UK productivity, innovation and drive significant improvements to mobile broadband availability across the UK."