Ofcom has announced that the auctions for 4G spectrum have begun, with the likes of O2, Vodafone, EE and even BT competing against one another for the spectrum.
The auctions have been a long time coming in the UK, after numerous delays and legal threats but Ofcom confirmed the first round of bidding started on 18 January.
The firms involved also include Three, PCCW and MLL Telecoms. PCCW, is the owner of UK Broadband, which offers 4G services in other spectrum bands in areas such as Swindon and Southwark. The second, MLL telecoms, provides public sector spectrum services.
The firms involved will now go through a number of rounds of bidding, hosted via an online electronic system, for the 28 lots of spectrum that sit in the 800MHz and 2.6GHz bands.
The former was freed up from the switch off of the analogue TV signal and is ideal for widespread coverage and indoor penetration. The latter is more suited for high-capacity use, so is more suited to urban areas.
Ofcom has designed the auctions so at least one new firm - thus excluding Vodafone, O2 or EE - will win spectrum, in an attempt to ensure the UK market remains competitive.
The first round of bidding that has already taken place, called the "opt-in" stage. This saw the four firms eligible to win a portion of the spectrum set aside for a new entrant able to choose whether they wanted to enter that part of the auction.
If so, they then had to make a reserve bid of sufficient value to remain in consideration.
"Today's 4G auction is a very significant milestone for the UK's communications sector," said Ofcom chief executive Ed Richards.
"It will release the essential raw material for the next wave of mobile digital services. This will change the way we consume digital media in both our personal and working lives and deliver significant benefits to millions of consumers and businesses across the country."
Dan Worth is the news editor for V3 having first joined the site as a reporter in November 2009. He specialises in a raft of areas including fixed and mobile telecoms, data protection, social media and government IT. Before joining V3 Dan covered communications technology, data handling and resilience in the emergency services sector on the BAPCO Journal.