The 800MHz spectrum has become available due to the switching off of analogue television services (the digital divide) while 2.6GHz was reserved for future IMT-2000 (3G) services.
The 800MHz spectrum will be auctioned as 2 x 30 MHz blocks (paired spectrum) while the 2.6GHz band will consist of 2 x 70MHz blocks and a 50 MHz single (unpaired) block. This spectrum amounts to an 80% increase on all spectrum allocated to date.
Existing spectrum holders can bid for increased allocations, though spectrum will be reserved for a new entrant (i.e. one that isn't Telefonica O2, Everything Everywhere and Vodafone), this new entrant could be Hutchison 3G (who currently do not have any 2G i.e. sub 2 GHz spectrum.
The 800MHz licensee will have to meet 98% indoor coverage which implies 99.5% outdoor coverage, by 2017. The licensee will also have obligations to cover 95% of the populations of England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.
Ofcom will not reserve any spectrum for low power localised services, though a low power provider can apply for a national license.
Ofcom is reserving spectrum portfolios for a new entrant, these are
|Portfolio||800 MHz||1800 MHz||2.6 GHz|
|1||2 x 15 MHz|
|2||2 x 10 MHz||2 x 10 MHz|
|3||2 x 5 MHz||2 x 15 MHz|
|4||2 x 15 MHz||2 x 20 MHz|
EverythingEverywhere have to relinquish 2 x 15 MHz paired spectrum as part of their arrangements with the EU when they combined T-Mobile and Orange. Ofcom have considered the request from EverythingEverywhere as to allow them to ref arm their 1800 MHz spectrum for LTE us independently from this spectrum auction and will announce its results later this year.
Ofcom has published a draft legal document which implements the auction rules, the consultation will close on 11th September 2012.
Ofcom will invite application to bid before the end of 2012 with the auction starting in 2013 and licenses awarded in March 2013.
Winners of spectrum are expected to roll-out LTE services on the new spectrum starting in the middle of 2013 with consumer services being available after that.