12/11/2012 03:37 GMT | Updated 11/01/2013 05:12 GMT

Ofcom 4G Spectrum Auction Timeline Announced

The timeline for the largest ever sale of mobile phone spectrum in the UK has been released.

4G LTE is up to seven times faster than 3G, enabling downloads at an average of about 6 megabits per second.

Media regulator Ofcom announced that applications for 4G spectrum will be accepted from 11 December.

The total cost of the spectrum could reach £1.3bn, Ofcom said.

Secure online bidding will begin in January, and could take several weeks. Bidders will be informed if they have won and what they will have to pay in February or March, and the new services will be launched by May or June 2013.

The new spectrum will be used to run next-generation mobile broadband data networks.

The UK's first 4G LTE network, EE, launched last month but many other operators, including O2, Vodafone and Three Mobile are said to be interested in developing competitors.

Those networks had opposed the launch of EE on the networks existing spectrum, arguing it gave the company an unfair advantage. But it was able to go ahead after a landmark ruling by Ofcom, who said it was important to roll out new services as early as possible.

Ed Richards, Ofcom Chief Executive, said: "Today marks an important shift from preparation to the delivery of the auction, which will see widespread 4G mobile services from a range of providers.

"The entire industry is now focused on the auction itself, with a shared goal of delivering new and improved mobile services for consumers."