Mobile network operators will not be able to roll out 4G LTE services until 2013 at the earliest, due to technical issues, according to UK regulatory body Ofcom, rendering speculation about whether the spectrum auction will be delayed as irrelevant.
The regulator has altered its forecast for the timing of the auction from 1Q12 to the “first half of 2012”, whilst admitting that it could yet happen in the first quarter of the year.
“It is a very complex programme with a number of different parts and processes and all of them have to happen at the same time, which makes it difficult to judge at this point when the auction will take place,” said an Ofcom spokesperson.
“We don’t want to say that it will definitely happen in the first quarter, but it might. It will happen in the first half though, and we’ve actually told operators this over the past three or four months.”
The spokesperson added that the UK’s mobile operators would not be ready to roll out the service until 2013 anyway as spectrum needs to be made available, and there are currently stumbling blocks in place.
Part of the 800MHz spectrum that is required for 4G is currently being occupied by digital terrestrial television and there are issues with 4G interfering with neighbouring bands, which need to be mitigated. Until these issues are resolved, operators will not be able to use the spectrum, and the earliest would happen is in 2013. Therefore, Ofcom argues that any issues with the timing of the auction will have no impact on operators’ plans.
The spokesperson added that speculation that the delay was caused by legal threats from mobile operators is “not true at all”. Everything Everywhere, Vodafone and O2 have each recently denied that they had attempted to delay the auction.