The UK's four operators have hailed the 'landmark' moment of securing 4G spectrum, after the auction ended.
EE already has a 4G service, which has been running since October. It was one of the big spenders at the auction, spending almost £600m in acquiring both capacity rich and penetrative spectrum. CEO Olaf Swantee said he was 'extremely pleased' with the outcome. He said: 'The acquisition of low and high frequency spectrum allows us to boost our superfast data services and coverage - indoors and outdoors, in cities and the countryside.'
Vodafone was the biggest spender, having lacked any free 4G ready airwaves. It splashed out almost £800m. CEO Guy Laurence said: 'We’ve secured the low frequency mobile phone spectrum that will support the launch of our ultra-fast 4G service later this year. It will enable us to deliver services where people really want it, especially indoors. This is great news for our customers. The next generation of mobile internet services will bring real benefits to both consumers and businesses.'
O2 only bought low frequency spectrum, spending just over half a billion pounds. CEO Ronan Dunne said the operator plans to go beyond EE's 4G proposition and offer an 'exclusive range of digital experiences'. He said: 'This is a truly landmark moment for the UK, presenting a wealth of opportunity to transform mainstream services to improve people’s lives. Now the investment has been made for 4G to become a nationwide reality, we want all organisations across all sectors to ensure the true value of 4G is realised, so that together we can make Britain truly digital.'
Three bought 4G ready spectrum from EE last year, but it will not get its hands on it until the autumn. It has promised not to charge a price premium for 4G services. CEO Dave Dyson said: 'We have more than doubled our spectrum holdings in the past 12 months thanks to spectrum acquired at auction and outside the auction process. Doubling our capacity allows us to continue our growth with significant headroom to increase our current base of over 8m customers.'
BT was the fifth winner in the auction. CEO Ian Livingston said: 'We have said that we do not intend to build a national mobile network. Instead, this spectrum will complement our existing strategy of delivering a range of services using fixed and wireless broadband.'
The £2.3bn raised by the auction is bound to disappoint the government, which had hoped it would raise £3.5bn. Culture secretary Maria Miller said: 'Spectrum use is worth more than £50 billion to the UK economy and 4G mobile broadband is a key part of our digital growth strategy so I am delighted the auction has been completed.'
Author: Graeme Neill