LONDON -(Dow Jones)- U.K. communications regulator Ofcom has received between 40 and 50 responses to its plans for the nation's single biggest auction of mobile spectrum, a person familiar with the situation said Wednesday.
Ofcom, whose deadline for submissions on the fourth generation mobile spectrum auction closed Tuesday, is aiming to publish all submissions on its website next week, the person told Dow Jones Newswires.
The regulator has received submissions from all the major U.K. mobile operators, including Vodafone Group PLC (VOD.LN), Telefonica SA's (TEF) O2, Everything Everywhere, the joint venture between France Telecom's (FTE) Orange and Deutsche Telekom AG's (DTE.XE) T-Mobile, Hutchison Whampoa's (0013.HK) 3UK as well as from some consumer organisations and individuals, the person said, without elaborating on the content of the submissions.
None of the mobile operators were immediately available for comment.
In March, Ofcom outlined plans for the auction of fourth generation, or 4G, mobile spectrum, with limits on how much each mobile operator can buy to ensure healthy competition. At the time, Ofcom said it plans to introduce limits on the minimum and maximum amounts of spectrum that bidders can be awarded to ensure that at least four wholesale operators remain in the country.
The 4G mobile spectrum is equivalent to three-quarters of the mobile spectrum in use at present, and there is 80% more spectrum than when 3G was auctioned in 2000, according to Ofcom. The long-awaited auction is expected to provide additional capacity for 4G long-term-evolution technology, which will allow users to watch high-definition video and get much faster download speeds on mobile devices.
Ofcom expects the auction, which is expected to raise billions of pounds for the cash-strapped U.K. government, to start in the first quarter of 2012. The government approved the process last July as part of wider efforts to improve the speed of Internet broadband in the country.
The switch to digital TV in the U.K. has freed up valuable radio spectrum previously used to transmit analog signals, but more is needed given the sharp rise in data usage, driven partly by the surge in smartphones like Apple Inc.'s (AAPL) iPhone.
Two spectrum bands will be auctioned - 800 megahertz and 2.6 gigahertz, which together total up to 250 MHz of additional mobile spectrum. The lower frequency 800 MHz band is part of the spectrum which is being freed up as the U.K. switches from analog to digital TV and is ideal for widespread mobile coverage. The 2.6 GHz band is at a higher frequency and best suited for delivering the capacity needed to achieve higher speeds.
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