Seven companies will bid for 4G mobile broadband spectrum in the UK, Ofcom has announced.
Blocks of 800MHz and higher-frequency 2.6GHz spectrum will be auctioned, with a target total price of about £3.5 billion.
The auction for the newly freed-up spectrum will take place in early January, with new 4G services expected to come online between Spring and Summer 2013.
All of the major UK mobile operators will bid for spectrum, as well as Hong Kong conglomerate PCCW and the UK network supplier MLL Telecom.
The full list is:
- Everything Everywhere, which has already launched a 4G network on existing spectrum
- PCCW, a Hong Kong conglomerate operating through HKT
- Hutchison Whampoa, also a Hong Kong conglomerate which runs 3
- Telefonica, which runs O2
- MLL Telecom
Ofcom said the new spectrum would boost the "amount of airwaves available to mobile phones" by more than 75%, and added that the result for consumers would be faster downloads and more capacity.
Ed Richards, Ofcom chief executive, said: "The 4G auction will be a competitive process that will dictate the shape of the UK mobile phone market for the next decade and beyond.
"New 4G services will stimulate investment, growth and innovation in the UK and deliver significant benefits to consumers in terms of better, faster and more reliable mobile broadband connections."
It is expected that four "credible national wholesalers of mobile services" will be granted licenses.