By Max Clarke

Ofcom, independent regulators for communications industries, has launched a consultation on how best to sell off the rights to the next generation (4G) mobile wireless networks providing an opportunity to extend fast broadband coverage 95% of the population in a move that could assist the UK pull itself out of recession.

“The auction is not only critical to the future of the UK mobile telecommunications market but it is also of significant importance to the wider economy." Said Ofcom Chief Executive, Ed Richards. "It will support a wide range of data services that are fast becoming essential features of the modern world.

The auction is expected to be held in the first quarter of 2012 and will give the UK’s many small businesses a much needed boost, as the UK tries to claw back lost ground in the battle for a strong digital economy.

4G will support a wide range of data services that are fast becoming essential features of the modern world and I hope that the UK will follow the German model of auctioning 4G — ie the ‘last mile’ implemented first, otherwise the rural areas which provide a base for many of the UK’s lifeblood businesses (SMEs) will miss out once again.” said Mark Seemann, Chief Technical Officer for Outsourcery.

The additional spectrum to be sold should mean faster downloading data — assisting business applications such as video conferencing and remote software access while on the move, with consumers benefitting from easier downloading of music and movies to phones, as more capacity is made spare for all the networks.

Seemann continued, “This time around there should be more immediate action as the last time licenses were auctioned the dotcom bubble burst shortly after, leaving little money to invest in infrastructure. Delivering 20-30 meg broadband to rural areas using 4G would also assist the mobile operators become more competitive with BT.”

The actual parts of the spectrum being sold - at the 800MHz and 2.6GHz bandwidths - will be parts of the wireless spectrum historically used by analogue TV, which is being switched off as digital is rolled out.