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Ofcom confirms 4G auction dates

The UK's 4G service is still a year away

Bidding for the UK's 4G spectrum will take place in early 2013, with consumers expected to get service later in the year.

The mobile industry was hoping for Ofcom to set a firm date for the auction of the 4G spectrum today, with the communications body explaining that the auction will begin in late 2012 with bids accepted from networks in early 2013.

Ofcom says it now expects consumers to start getting 4G service late next year. The official news comes after TechRadar was warned by O2 CEO Ronan Dunne that 4G wouldn't be made available until July 2013.

Room for a little one

The regulator is reserving a minimum amount of mobile spectrum in the hope that a new, fourth operator will enter the market to promote competition – hopefully translating to better services and lower prices for consumers. Hutchinson 3G is a possible contender.

The sale of the 4G spectrum was initially planned to take place early this year.

When it finally occurs, the auction will sell off 80% more of the mobile spectrum than the 3G auction back in 2000, and should result in mobile broadband cover for at least 98% of the UK.