After years of delays, the UK's 4G spectrum auction finally gets underway today, with seven organizations -- including the country's four major carriers -- bidding for 28 lots of spectrum across 800MHz and 2600MHz bands. UK telecommunications regulator Ofcom says bidding will continue over several rounds, and that the bidding process may take "several weeks" to complete. The process is designed "[to put] the spectrum in the hands of the bidders who value it most highly, while also ensuring they pay a competitive price," Ofcom says.
Ofcom expects successful bidders to be able to launch their own 4G LTE services on the newly-acquired spectrum in "late spring/summer" of this year. Currently EE -- the network formed by the merger of Orange and T-Mobile UK -- is the only UK carrier with 4G services, having launched its network in late 2012 using re-farmed 1800MHz spectrum. EE's service is expected to be available in some 35 British cities by the end of March, though the operator has been criticized over its prices, which are significantly higher than its 3G rivals.
Spring is traditionally when we start to see the first wave of new smartphones reaching the market, and the launch of new 4G LTE networks in the UK alongside desirable new hardware could create a perfect storm of temptation for British smartphone buyers. At the very least, EE's prices should be driven down through increased competition.
If you're interested in exactly how the auction process will work, Ofcom's got a breakdown over at the source link.