4G licence auction will see mobile data boom
An auction of 4G licences will allow smartphone and tablet computer users to stream and download almost anywhere in the UK, the regulator Ofcom has said.
Under its proposals for conditions at the auction later this year, at least 98% of the population would have access to mobile broadband.
It would set the scene for an explosion in tablet and smartphone use as demand for mobile data is expected to rise by more than 500% in five years.
The new licences will give operators access to frequencies freed up as the UK switches off analogue TV and moves to digital.
Ofcom chief executive Ed Richards said: "This is a crucial step in preparing for the most significant spectrum release in the UK for many years."
In the current economic climate it is believed this year's auction may generate between £1bn and £5bn. Ofcom's proposals would particularly benefit people living in rural areas.
During a first consultation between March and May 2011, Ofcom suggested that one 800MHz licence should carry with an obligation to spread the 4G network to 95% of the UK.
Ofcom now says the 800MHz operator should be required to either provide 4G to 98% of the country or match existing 2G coverage and extend into mobile "not spot" areas.
Ofcom's stakeholders now have 10 weeks to respond and a final decision on how the auction will work will be made by the summer.
The rise in demand for mobile data over the next five years