Ofcom delays 4G spectrum auction

Ofcom has announced that that the UK’s 4G spectrum auction is to be delayed until the fourth quarter of 2012.

The auction of 800MHz and 2.6GHz frequencies was initially due to take place in the first quarter of 2012, yet Ofcom admitted last month that a delay would be likely.

The communications regulator consulted on the auction between March and May of this year, while operators and stakeholders were able to submit responses.

“In light of these responses, and the significance of the decisions that we need to take – decisions that are likely to shape the future of the mobile sector in the UK for the next decade or more – we have decided to undertake a further round of consultation," Ofcom stated.

An additional consultation document is due for publication at the end of this year, followed by a period of further review, whereby stakeholders will have at least eight weeks to submit their responses.

Ofcom, which has stated that restrictions to the amount of spectrum individual firms are able to purchase will be applied, indicated that the delay may not affect the date when 4G services become available as the relevant spectrum will not be free until 2013.

The auction’s postponement is, however, likely to draw further attention to the controversy surrounding the news that equipment surrendered under the Channel 69 funding initiative is to be resold by Equiniti, Ofcom’s administrator.

A number of manufacturers have since stated their disapproval at this potentially market-distorting practice.

“Equiniti’s plans to resell second-hand equipment back into the UK marketplace is counter-productive given that the primary goal of the funding scheme was to help clear the 800MHz band wireless devices,” said Peter James, managing director, Shure Distribution UK. “All of this [previously surrendered] equipment has a very limited lifespan as the entire 800MHz band needs to be cleared by 1st October 2012. This action by Equiniti increases confusion and uncertainty around spectrum allocation in the UK and will likely lead to the increased population of the 800MHz band at a time when it should be reducing.”