Ofcom looks to the future after 4G ‘damp squib’

4G: 'Proving to be something of a damp squib'. Picture: Reuters
4G: 'Proving to be something of a damp squib'. Picture: Reuters
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Telecoms regulator Ofcom has set its sights on the next generation of mobile data services after its highly-anticipated auction of superfast 4G airwaves raised a smaller-than-expected £2.3 billion.

The tally fell well short of the £3.5bn forecast by Chancellor George Osborne in his Autumn Statement, and compares with £22.5bn raised for the Treasury in the previous 3G auction in 2000.

Alex Jackman, head of policy at the Forum of Private Business, said 4G was “proving to be something of a damp squib” as research showed just 4 per cent of small firms thought it would make a significant difference to their business.

However, Ofcom chief executive Ed Richards said mobile data demand could be 80 times higher in 2030 than it is today, and the watchdog was now planning for 5G.

He said: “More mobile spectrum is needed over the long term, together with new technologies to make mobile broadband more efficient.”

All the major mobile phone companies – EE, Hutchison 3G, Telefonica and Vodafone – were successful in the auction, while BT also picked up a licence.

Vodafone was the highest bidder, paying £790.8 million for a mixture of lower and higher frequencies.

EE spent £558.9m, while O2 parent Telefonica paid £555m for a spectrum that must provide indoor reception for at least 98 per cent of the UK population by 2017.

Three, owned by Hutchison 3G, shelled out £225m, and BT subsidiary Niche paid £186.5m but chief executive Ian Livingston said the group does not plan to build a national mobile network.