Ofcom sets auction timetable: UK's 4G monopoly will end in June
New kit going up now: Hope it works on the right freqs
Ofcom has drafted the legislation to open up two 4G bands next year, with bidders required to register by 11 December, the auction in January and the awards in June.
The regulator published its proposals for the auction in August, but this is the proposed legislation which will make that auction happen. The final rules don't deviate significantly from those proposed, despite several pages of (highly redacted) feedback from some potential bidders (PDF, highly redacted), so the important bit is the dates.
The auction process is pretty complicated, so there'll be two dry runs on 26 November and 3 December before submissions close on 11 December. Then everyone gets to relax over Christmas and the action kicks off in January.
The auction process itself is pretty complicated, and Ofcom will be providing a few more details over the next few days, but there will be a series of bidding rounds with the intention of squeezing the maximum amount of revenue out of the bidders (in the interests of spectral efficiency obviously - Ofcom's mantra is that he who pays most for radio spectrum will make the best use of it).
Once the auction is over, the operators can start building their networks, putting in base stations using the bandwidth they've acquired. Some work will start before then, Vodafone is already in full flight, but deployment is limited to backhaul and flexible radio components unless they're committing to a specific band (which isn't impossible, as there's nearly enough 800MHz to go round, but it comes with some risk too).
Then come the final awards, which are planned for the end of June if Ofcom and Arqiva can get the Freeview channels bumped in time. So if the deployments have gone as planned, EE should lose its 4G exclusive in a little over six months. ®