Android Central

The UK's long-delayed 4G spectrum auction has completed today, resulting in the sale of 800MHz and 2600MHz airwaves to the country's largest operators for a total of £2.3 billion.

Here's what it means for each of the major providers --

  • EE pays £588.9 million for 2 x 5MHz of 800MHz and 2 x 35MHz of 2600MHz. Combined with its existing 1800MHz coverage that makes it the only major carrier with the ability to use all three main 4G bands. It also means EE has the most 4G spectrum available of any carrier. In addition, EE walks away with the largest slice of 2600MHz airwaves, which offer higher speeds over smaller areas.
  • Three gets 2 x 5MHz of 800MHz for £225m. The UK's smallest operator has already purchased 2 x 15MHz of 1800MHz from EE, and its new 800MHz holdings should help it extend coverage in rural areas and improve indoor 4G reception.
  • O2 gets 2 x 10MHz of 800MHz for £550m as part of a "coverage obligation lot." That obligation means O2 must provide indoor reception to 98 percent of the overall UK population (as well as 95 percent of the populations of England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland) by the end of 2017.
  • Vodafone also walks away with 2 x 10MHz of 800MHz, as well as 2 x 20MHz and 1 x 25MHz of 2600MHz, for which it paid £790.8m. This gives it a substantial amount of fresh spectrum upon which to build its 4G network.

In addition, BT scooped up 2 x 15MHz and 1 x 20MHz of 2600MHz through its Niche Spectrum Ventures subsidiary, however BT isn't looking to launch its own mobile network.

Winners now have until Thursday to pay for their newly-won airwaves, and according to Ofcom the launch of commercial 4G services on this spectrum remains on target for late spring or early summer.

Source: Ofcom


Reader comments

UK 4G spectrum auction concludes, EE + Vodafone are the big spenders


Hey alex, How does this translate coverage wise? I'm not at all savvy with how LTE works. From what I understand on some other posts, the 800mhz spectrum is the old analogue tv signal which will cover outdoor coverage... beyond that it's all gibberish :P

I only ask as it's contract renewal for me come july and I was thinking of ditching Vodafone for 3 as they seem to be offering what the masses want in zero price increase on their 3G tariffs. As they don't seem to have shelled out as much as the others, am I likely to be hit with naff 4G reception more often than not with them?

Sorry for such a long question

I think you will have OK reception, though not as good as EE, and maybe slightly worse than Vodafone.

three also bought some of the 1800 off EE once its got that along with the 800 that it bought it should have a decent 4g, though EE will defo have the best 4g service available.

it's too early to say what the best carrier will be for 4G.

I would say Vodafone have potentially the best service because of their bandwidth at 800MHz which provides wide area service, and the 2600MHz allows urban coverage.

O2 will probably be the worst unless they do a deal with one of the others. From what I've heard they are not very good at 3G either.

EE could be good too, because they were able to have 3G on 1800MHz.

That all said, what matters is whether they cover your area, and whether they set up enough backhaul bandwidth.

Hopefully by July and the time you have to make a decision, the carriers will have published their roll-out plans. If there's still no news, switch to PAYG or to a SIM-only deal on a monthly rolling contract, keep your phone and slash your contract price, and wait!

Interesting, makes it very hard to pick a carrier to be on.

I am currently on Tmobile (so EE) but i would like to stay on Tmobile, as i have unlimited internet, but i do not want to be on "EE" as there prices are just ridiculous, For the new HTC one its £41 a month with 1gb of internet, (and £69 upfront) which is mind blowing, whats the point of having 4G with only 1gb limit?.

With three not having any of the 2600mhz spectrum i dont think they will be the best way to go, but id rather have them than o2.

Vodafone looked like they bought a big chunk of spectrum which is decent, and will offer somthing against EE but there pricing is as bad as EE.

So yeah I would like to go onto 4g at somepoint next yr, but i will have to see what EE's pricing is as i want either 5gb limit or unlimited anything else and i think i'll just stick to 3g.