4g-logoAfter a relatively short auction, the 4G mobile spectrum licenses have been awarded in the UK by the regulator Ofcom.

The winners will all be in a frantic race to get their 4G services up and running and generating cash, however there are a number of complication along the way.

Confirmed as the winners are Everything Everywhere, Telefonica (O2) and Vodafone, Hutchison 3G UK, and Niche Spectrum Ventures (a BT subsidiary).

Ofcom had anticipated the auction would raise around £3.5bn but in the end it generated £2.3bn, a far cry from the 3G auction in 2000 which raised £22bn.

So what now?  Rolling out 4G will happen quickly, and could start as soon as next month (March 2013).  Everything Everywhere already offer a limited 4G service using its existing frequency at 1,800MHz.  The auction was for the 800MHz and 2.6GHz range.  The 800 range is particular useful as it provides stronger signals for greater distance and the 2.6Ghz  can penetrate inside buildings easier, however there is a serious problem to over come.

The UK Freeview digital TV services operates n the 700Mhz range, close enough to 800Mhz to cause interference for some.

In theory those living near am 800Mhz transmitter could lose their Freeview TV signal.  Ofcom estimate that 2.3 million households could have their television signal disrupted, however they do acknowledged there is a lot of 'guesswork involved' in this calculation.

£180m of the proceeds of the 4G auction have been assigned to Digital Mobile Spectrum Limited, a new company, who will be sending out digital filters to affected homes -- one per household!  There are an estimated 40,000 who will not see a benefit from the filter and will need to move to Cable or Freesat services, again at the cost of the new company.

For the vast majority of the UK population there should be no disruption to TV, and those on Cable or Satellite TV reception face no issue.

It remains to be seen how widely spread the 4G network will be.  While we can gain some excitement from the fact that 4G offers significantly faster mobile data speeds, we can look back to the euphoria of 3G at the turn of the millennium and see that 3G continues to have very poor coverage out-with cities. Your new 4G phone might get a great signal at work, however once you get home you might be on 3G or even less.

The final annoyance could be lack of 4G support in phones.  Around the globe 4G is offered on different frequencies and phone manufactures build phones to accommodate many by not all.  For example, the current 4G iPhone 5 can only operates on the UK EE network as it uses the 1800MHz frequency but can't support 4G as per the frequencies sold off in the auction!

Complicated, or what?!

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